What can be done to provide affordable housing? (2)

(The latest in a series of posts on the Southside and Neighborhoods)

Taking up here one of the two questions provoked by CW Negron’s response to the South Bethlehem Historical Society letter about detrimental effects brought about by “progress” on the Southside.

What can be done to provide affordable housing [on the Southside]?

You know Gadfly by now. You’ve seen him “in action” before. He starts answering a question with a series of questions. He starts way back. Trying to understand a question or a problem.

But he has seen you “in action” before too. He knows he has an audience that knows things. So have at it! Jump in!

1) What exactly do we mean by “affordable housing”? How define it? We are talking about housing and rental prices that people in a certain income bracket can afford, right? What is that bracket? And therefore what housing and rental prices are we targeting as “affordable housing”? We need more houses in what price range? We need more rentals in what price range?

2) These terms are tossed around, but how would we define low-cost housing? moderately priced housing?

3) What data or anecdotal reports do we have on housing and rental costs on the Southside now? What is the average sale price? Rental price? What is the rent at 510 Flats and other new — “luxury” — sites?

4) What data or anecdotal reports do we have on housing and rental availability right now? Scarce? Abundant? Buyer’s market? Seller’s market?

5) What are the forces driving up the price of existing housing?  What are the forces driving the development of primarily “luxury” housing?

6) How much a part of the expressed desire for more affordable housing is connected with a desire to have more families living on the Southside?

7) What are we doing now to increase affordable housing? Is there a plan in operation? Is it on some agenda?

8) How does the rehab program of Southside Vision 20/20 fit in to this desire for more affordable housing? Are there other such City programs?

9) CRIZ and such incentive programs are probably not applicable, right?

10) Who has the power to make affordable housing a higher priority? The City? Council? Shared?

11) How does the development process work in general? Is the City passive/active? If affordable housing were to be a higher priority, who would be the point person? Mayor? Community and Economic Development?

12) Is affordable housing on the Mayor’s radar? Is it in the State of the City address, etc.?

13) Is anyone right now charged with seeking to cultivate sources for affordable housing?

14) CW Negron says there is an ordinance that the City can use to gain affordable housing, but CM Callahan says developers cannot be forced to build affordable housing. Who is right?

15) CM Callahan has offered to “team” with CW Negron in looking for developers — does that collaboration have potential?

16) But in these pages, Dana Grubb has said developers are not the answer but non-profits. Like whom? How do we get them involved?

17) We are certainly not the first or only City to face issues of affordable housing and gentrification — what other cities are we/should we be looking at for ideas?

18) Who used affordable housing as a campaign issue that we should be looking to for leadership and action? Whose feet do we hold to the fire?

19) Should we be looking for candidates in the next election round who will make affordable housing  a major issue?

Now the Gadfly mailbag shows followers have already begun to fill in answers to some of these questions, so look for Gadfly to bring in their posts next.



One thought on “What can be done to provide affordable housing? (2)

  1. Ed,

    I didn’t say that developers aren’t the answer, what I inferred is that because they are profit driven they are looking to make money and that the construction of affordable/blue collar/workforce housing is not a huge revenue generator. However, I feel they could be part of the solution if policies, ordinances, and community pressure induced them to provide a mix of housing types and affordability. Over many years there have been a number of affordable housing developers in the Lehigh Valley, all non-profits. At issue is that for-profit developers build larger projects (think about the 528 upscale rental units proposed for the Martin Tower site) versus smaller one to ten unit projects that non-profits generally undertake. That ration isn’t a good one and neither is the ratio of rentals to owner-occupied units. Home ownership helps greatly to stabilize neighborhoods, with an optimum ratio of 70% owned and 30% rented deemed the best approach for accomplishing this. That ratio is being skewed tremendously by all of the upscale rental units being proposed and built.

    This why public and private partnerships need to be forged. One can’t do it on its own and the other won’t.



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