Economic development and affordable housing are two of the top issues for people in the Lehigh Valley who came out to share concerns during the 30 public meetings Envision Lehigh Valley held around the region.
The regional sustainability planning project released the findings of a feedback report it compiled after interviewing more than 1,110 people between July 11, 2012, and Jan. 16, 2013. Envision Lehigh Valley is a group of regional development agencies and other entities.
The results showed that 79 percent of respondents rated economic development and housing affordability as a "very important" quality of life concern.
Rachel Bradshaw, director of Renew Lehigh Valley, one of the partners in the project, said she thought it was profound that those surveyed showed such a keen interest in bringing jobs to the area through economic development and keeping housing affordable – with an eye to how the two issues are intertwined.
"They were excited about the prospect of new jobs, but they were worried about things like traffic congestion and the impact attracting people to the region would have on the expense of housing," she said.
Bradshaw said the group analyzing the data also found that the concerns of Lehigh Valley residents are very similar – no matter where they live in the area.
"Overall interests and topics of discussion varied little in the different cities, boroughs, and townships where they were held," said Michele Deegan, associate professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "We had expected participants in different locales to hold, on average, different views concerning issues in the four focal areas of the study.
"When we divided up the data and looked at the focus groups from different locations separately, however, we found little to distinguish them."
Bradshaw said the report is phase one of the goals of Envision Lehigh Valley.
"Now we have a baseline on what issues to deal with," she said.
Those will be the issues the group will be tackling at its next series of meetings.
The data were gathered by the regional sustainability project, which is a three-year $3.4 million Sustainable Communities grant funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.