“Affordable housing, as we all know, is a challenge throughout the Lehigh Valley and we are making an investment”

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

Tip o’ the hat, CW N, that’s the article I was looking for! I don’t see the project called “Neighborhood Works” but “City Lights,” the project CM Callahan was unsuccessfully seeking info about at the last Council meeting. Same thing, I guess.


That was not the mayor’s work but CACLV: https://www.mcall.com/news/local/bethlehem/mc-nws-south-bethlehem-affordable-housing-20190408-4x6q3gcyerhb5hpt7fywmq4zuu-story.html

Councilwoman Olga Negrón


Nicole Radzievich, “South Bethlehem lands $1 million investment in affordable housing.” Morning Call, April 8, 2019.

The affordable housing proposal envisioned at the so-called “zombie tract” — a grassy slope in south Bethlehem where some streets were cut more than a dozen years ago but nothing was ever built — is now officially dead. But the spirit behind the “City Lights” project will live on as the $1 million in grants awarded for the development now will be spent on five weathered houses scattered across the South Side.

Standing in front of one of those homes at 735 Hayes St., Mayor Robert Donchez announced Monday that the grants and city contributions will be diverted so the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley can bring those homes up to code for sale to first-time homebuyers. The homes will remain affordable for 99 years.

“The goal of this program is really to increase homeownership among people who have been excluded from the housing market,” said Donchez, who grew up just blocks from Hayes Street. “Affordable housing, as we all know, is a challenge throughout the Lehigh Valley and we are making an investment.”

Bethlehem’s affordable housing project comes after recent years of community investment on Hayes Street. CACLV and the city have helped rehabilitate the facades of 13 homes, rehab three homes, plant 39 trees, paint a mural and develop a pocket park.

During the five years that those improvements were made, the Hayes Street corridor has experienced a 9% increase in homeownership.

[Council-goers will recognize that CM Callahan consistently points to Hayes Street as a sign of valuable City activity in improving affordable housing.]

City Lights had been billed as a $6 million residential project that would attract people of all incomes to the 1200 blocks of Sixth and Seventh streets. CACLV held neighborhood meetings last summer, but ultimately decided the project was “financially untenable, illustrating the market challenges of developing housing for low- to moderate-income homeowners.” Plans for the property date back to 2003 under a previous developer.

One thought on ““Affordable housing, as we all know, is a challenge throughout the Lehigh Valley and we are making an investment”

  1. Thanks for the clarification, Olga! Some more background on the project (which does not have a catchy name, alas–just a piece of CACLV’s new housing rehab program):

    CACLV received a $500,000 grant from Project Reinvest: Neighborhoods, which was originally designated for the first stage of the development of 36 twin homes at Edwards, Sixth and Seventh streets in south Bethlehem. The project was deemed financially infeasible and these funds were instead used to purchase 5 homes in south Bethlehem for full rehabilitation and resale to low- to moderate-income families through the Lehigh Valley Community Land Trust (a subsidiary of CACLV). Three of the homes are nearing completion and will be on the market soon, and two homes will be on the market this fall. These are older homes that require a significant investment in rehabilitation if they are to be sold to low- to moderate-income families–no one wants to stick a family with a major repair expense in the first few years of homeownership, so the rehab is fairly extensive and includes weatherization. The rehab costs were funded by the City of Bethlehem and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). Once the homes are sold, the proceeds will be invested in the purchase of additional homes for rehab and resale, creating a revolving fund devoted to affordable housing development on the Southside. However, the program will be dependent on additional subsidies for the rehab component, which is where the City of Bethlehem comes in. Thanks to support from the City’s department of community and economic development, CACLV receives CDBG and HOME funds that pay for rehab.

    This program is a significant investment in affordable housing in south Bethlehem, but it is far from a solution to the affordable housing pressures on our community. As I mentioned previously, we need multiple, coordinated strategies if we’re really going to tackle this issue at scale. The good news is, there are groups out there working together to come up with ideas. On the Southside, the Southside Vision Housing Committee is working to implement a variety of different strategies and dream up new ones, and we welcome anyone who is interested in getting involved!

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