It’s no secret that Chester County is a desirable place to live, especially since it has won many awards and accolades for education, leisure and tourism, employment, and open space. However, many people want to live in Chester County but cannot afford to do so.
That’s why nearly 100 people – including residents, Chester County officials, municipal officials, planners, and representatives from organizations and the business community – gathered at a two-hour Citizen Planners’ Breakfast, “Affordably-Priced Housing,” that was sponsored by Chester County 2020 and the Chester County Planning Commission on December 13. People are recognizing this is a problem in Chester County and they are exploring solutions to make housing affordable for a broad spectrum of people, such as professionals, those in the trades, first-time home buyers, and seniors.
“This is, without a doubt, one of the issues we heard about during the development of Landscapes3,” said Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary, referring to the county’s recently adopted comprehensive plan.
O’Leary noted that an estimated 55,000 new homes will be needed in the county by 2045 to accommodate a nearly 30 percent increase in population, including 64,000 more senior citizens. The county is examining what kind of housing will be needed to accommodate that growth while also striking a balance with open space preservation.
The median housing value in 2017 was $337,000, which is the highest in the state, according to the Chester County Housing Report. Data also shows that household income has not kept pace with increases in housing costs. Fewer homes are for sale, which also affects housing costs.
Landscapes3 found that the demand for more diverse housing is increasing. In addition, housing is unaffordable for much of our current and future population.
Kennett Township Manager Lisa Moore discussed how her township has been focused on offering quality affordable housing for residents and addressing the lack of workforce housing available.
Kennett Township and Kennett Square worked together with Historic Kennett Square with the assistance of the Chester County Vision Partnership Program to undertake a joint economic development study in 2017 to more specifically determine the market; identify unique issues, challenges, and opportunities; provide a vision for six different focus areas (State Street, Cypress Street, Millers Hill, NVF/Mill Road, Birch Street, and Ways Lane); and undertake a public process that involves stakeholders. The borough and township hired an economic development director to implement the study. Several projects are occurring in the township and the borough, including affordable housing options. The township has been streamlining the process for builders.
Sarah Peck, principal of Progressive New Homes LLC, said density is the way to provide housing and allow builders to stay in business. Peck, who has built affordable housing in Chester County and neighboring counties, said increased density lowers land costs per unit, reduces infrastructure costs per unit, and reduces risk to builders. Builders, according to Peck, should work with government officials to find ways to complete the construction and solve existing problems.
Jason Duckworth, president of Arcadia Land Company, led the panel discussion at the event. Chester County 2020 is a nonprofit organization helping to create livable communities by bringing people together to find common ground and then working to transform dialogue into action. View more information on Chester County 2020.