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Lehigh Valley sees shift from home ownership to renting

Becky Bradley, executive director, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, reviews the commission’s annual Lehigh Valley development and outlook report at an event at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem. - (Photo / Wendy Solomon)

Apartments, assisted living facilities and condominiums are on the rise in the Lehigh Valley, marking a dramatic shift from the single-family houses, twin homes and town houses that dominated residential development in the region before the financial crisis of 2007-2008, according to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s annual development and outlook report.

Apartments, assisted living facilities and condominiums are on the rise in the Lehigh Valley, marking a dramatic shift from the single-family houses, twin homes and town houses that dominated residential development in the region before the financial crisis of 2007-2008, according to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s annual development and outlook report.

After several years of limited growth, multifamily home development is slowly recovering in the Lehigh Valley and is driving the region’s housing recovery, although it still lags behind nationally, according to the report.

The number of approved apartment units matched the number of approved single-family homes in 2013 and exceeded single-family homes by a 2-to-1 ratio in 2014 and 2015, the report said.

Demand for rental units rose among all age and income groups, said Becky Bradley, executive director of the LVPC, who presented the report at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem. The event, also hosted by the Urban Land Institute, featured a panel of national, regional and local experts on development and transportation.

The shift from single-family homes to rental units may reflect the challenges of a slow economic recovery, with many households unable to finance a home because of slow income growth and tight mortgage credit, Bradley said.

The rise in town homes and condominiums may also reflect “new preferences for buying a first home later in life or for living in more walkable neighborhoods,” the report said.

Condominiums appear to be making a comeback, with 2015 marking the first year that condominium projects were approved since 2008.

Bradley noted an increase in age-restricted housing between 2013 and 2015.

“It’s clearly a new form of demographic segregation driven by baby boomers,” she said.

Most of the multifamily units are in the townships, which in some cases have higher densities than in the cities, Bradley said.

Wendy Solomon

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