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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, September 16, 2016

LVPC Concerned About 55+ Communities

Becky Bradley addresses NorCo Council
Becky Bradley, Executive Director at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC), informed Northampton County Council at their September 15 meeting that her agency reviewed 411 subdivision and land development plans in 2015. It's a seven per cent increase over 2014. Bradley believes it indicates a "slow recovery after the economic downturn." Northampton County had the most commercial development (277 acres), while Lehigh County led in residential development (448 acres).

Nearly half the plans submitted (181) were actually non-development plans for lot line adjustments and deed consolidations. Of the remaining plans, 87 were residential and 143 were for non-residential development.

Bethlehem submitted the most plans (34) followed by Allentown (28), Upper Macungie (27) and Lower Macungie (24). Nine municipalities submitted no plans at all, and all nine were boroughs (Chapman, Fountain Hill, Freemansburg, Glendon, North Catasauqua, Portland, Stockertown, Tatamy and West Easton).

For the second year in a row, apartments (570 units) are ahead of all other housing units, including single family homes (246 units). "This is really a tectonic shift in how housing is being developed in our region," says Bradley. For 60 years before 2014, the single family home was the preferred residential unit. Now it's the apartment. According to Bradley, the demand is across "all age groups and all income strata."

Bradley did express concerns about the number of active senior or 55+ communities. Those are age-restricted housing developments, usually for people aged 55 and older. Traditions of America, which touts itself as the "National 55+ Home Builder of the Year," owns two of the top largest approved residential projects in 2015. In fact, 58% of the residential units proposed last year are age restricted.

Bradley noted that there is definitely a demand for age restricted communities, and baby boomers do make up the largest generation.

But what happens when they're gone? According to Bradley, "We are concerned about the ability to fill those units in the next decade or two because the generation underneath is much, much smaller and has a higher debt to income ratio that won't allow them to afford the high price of many of those 55 and up developments." She notes that many of them are in the $400,000 range, and some sell as high as $700,000.

She indicated that the LVPC has begun monitoring these communities to determine their long-term consequences.

Most of the non-residential development was industrial (3,431,858 sf). The top three include Forks Logistics Center (1.36 million sf Forks), Greenfield Industrial Park (1.25 million sf Lower Nazareth) and Hanover Corporate Center 2 (290,000 sf Hanover).

Bradley noted that warehouses have actually declined over the past three years, but her office just received an application last week for a 1.9 million sf warehouse at Bethlehem Majestic Center. That may be the largest warehouse to date within the Lehigh Valley.

Bradley expects to see retail development decline because of the increases in online shopping. "That drives the warehouse logistics economy, but it doesn't drive storefront activity. We'll be having a conversation going forward on what to do with what they call 'greyfields.' That's a fancy term for strip malls that are no longer viable."  

36 comments:

Peter J.Cochran said...

Bernie, At least some planning should be -no development . Forks Twp. for example has put the traffic and school district in congestive heart failure.Additionally, We haven t seen anything yet in Tatamy and Stockertown with traffic issues ,wait. Charlie Chrin's bridge empties to heavy opposing traffic into Forks at 1500 hrs. Heavy trucks will pour through tributaries to avoid standing traffic. That's planning. 13th Street in Easton will become impossible .

Anonymous said...

Where are all these 55+ developments in Northampton County? I am looking for a place in the $200,000 range for my wife and I. I would pay cash and then sell my home so I could afford the monthly rates and taxes, but I can't keep up with all the yard work and maintenance anymore. Do any of your readers or you know of anything in the area? A $400,000 range is simply out of the question.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought on the future resale value/market for those 55+ homes...

Will there be a lot of demand in 2035 for 20 year old townhouses as the 70-80 year old owners start moving out and on?

Anonymous said...

9:36 Look at 4Seasons / Hellertown
Excellent values at $225 ish

Anonymous said...

They are generally pricey (often more than what a similarly sized Colonial would cost) but there are some in Lower Macungie in the mid 200s. I can't believe how much people are paying for the new ones in Hanover Township, $400,000+ to live 10' from your neighbor in Geezerville and live under a Nazi HOA regime.

Peter J.Cochran said...

55 and older properties should be exempt from school taxes . They don't produce kids at that age.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Gen-Xers & Millennials don't have kids either, maybe those generations shouldn't have to pay school taxes either. Oh and lets also divert a bunch of school taxes for crappy charter schools and our public school system can become even more the envy of the world (sarcasm).

Patriot2 said...

Bradley is a typical bureaucrat who thinks she should control the type of housing developed rather than letting the marketplace prevail.

Eliminate funding for LVPC as they are a waste of taxpayer funds.

George Ruth said...

Patriot2 is onto something. Ms. Bradley and her youngish economic development types virtually celebrate the movement to apartment living. Folks, this is not a lifestyle 'choice' in most cases. The fact is that older people are being taxed out of the home they raised the kids in, and the beloved millennials simply can't afford a private house with today's sluggish-at-best economy. Just imagine community leaders boasting how people have given up on the American dream of more space and ownership. These same people push for legislation preserve open space yet plan a community for cramped living. Go figure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

George Ruth, You would think Patriot2 is onto something. You are two peas in a pod. But neither of you has a clue what that office does, nor do either of you bother trying to take the time to find out. That office handles billions (yes, billions) in transportation funds. It writes the regional comprehensive plan, which is pretty damn important to long-range planning. And it acts as the planning comm'n to a few local communities. Of course, you'd prefer everything to be a mess. You'd love to see the overdevelopment and traffic jams continue. Just get rid of the only people who can actually tell us what is going on.

Just brilliant.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that many so-called patriots who constantly bitch & moan about government aren't really patriots, they're anarchists. Government is certainly not perfect, but less government equals poorer services, poorer planning for things like infrastructure & would lead to more waste and less stability in the long run.

This also requires that people get involved, seek out accurate information & work together. It seems like too many people born after WWII have forgotten what this country was able to achieve by doing so.

George Ruth said...

You don't think the Planning Commission helps shape the community? You think it's just one big think tank? Those folks are so incestuous in the boards they cross-sit on, etc. So-called independent boards whose seats are filled by elected officials and leaders of the eco-dev/planning agencies of all kinds. You've got me wrong if you think I want a 'mess' in our communities. What we are getting, however, is already a mess. Western Lehigh County is starting to look like the concrete jungles that ring 'beltways' of major cities....all in the name of higher revenue (except for the revenue given back to the developers), more school revenues, etc. Now we hear about the fear of 55+ communities. What could be better than taxpayers who don't overpopulate our schools? And then the 'geezers' die off they can lower the 'age restrictiveness' to 50+ if they choose. Why does the Planning commission worry about who is living where? What is this, the administrative world of Woodrow Wilson? American did just fine for 200 years by fulfilling the dreams of its citizenry without the planned communities of the elected and appointed few.

Anonymous said...

George Ruth ... Maybe you should show up at local planning and LVPC meetings. You need to understand the laws and the planning processes/zoning that the various communities have and the state laws as well as federal laws that govern them. Once you do that you'll have better understanding of why things are the way they are (good or bad) and have more power to shape the things you're unhappy with.

If you read Bernie's post or were at the county meeting, you'd understand that Ms. Bradley was presenting data, which is important in planning for current & future issues, not controlling how people choose to live. You can't plan for traffic, long-term community issues and how all these things get paid for by the taxpayers in the short and long term if you don't have a good understating of what's actually going on or what their impact can be... pretty simple.

Uncontrolled development is a very bad thing for everyone's future. I do agree that 55+ communities are less of burden on our schools, but someone earlier actually proposed that they shouldn't have to pay taxes because people over 55 don't have kids ... how is that fair or a good thing? The problem with 55+ communities is what do we do with them after the baby boomers pass away, because frankly the generations beneath them will likely not be able to afford those homes or their desires will be different.

Some of these planning issues don't become a serious problem until they reach a critical point or density. 100 - 200 years go we were still a predominately agrarian society.

Don't lump economic development and planning together. Without planning economic development can't work long term, it would be like painting yourself into a corner, with paint that remains wet for decades or more.

Patriot2 said...

I have attended local & LVPC meetings & watched first hand the bureaucrats under Bradley rubber stamp local planning decisions. They are useless & their board members include the local city planners who influence other board members.

Distributing regional transportation money doesn't require an army of staff that rubber stamps bad local planning & then is portrayed to the unsuspecting citizenry as some all knowing body of intellect-what a joke!!

Over 55 communities of $400,000 homes will be in demand for a very long time & if they aren't 25 years from now the age restrictions can be eased & resale prices will drop & they will still be filled. So Bradley can go back to distributing Transportation funding & continue her rubber stamp role for our city planners in the valley. She is not a watchdog for bad planning in the Lehigh Valley & I have observed that firsthand.





Bernie O'Hare said...

Patriot your comment explains exactly why LVPC is needed. In 25 yrs, when these age restrictions are eased as you suggest, schools will be flooded and property taxes will skyrocket. Hence the need for planning. Age restricted communities should be strictly limited.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Also Patriot, I hate gaps at the end of comments and will delete them. Try not to do that. Pet peeve of mine.

Patriot2 said...

I think that concern about flooding of school duos tricks is a local one that doesn't need Bradley intellectuals to worry about. The local municipality & school district may actually want more kids in the district by then since millennial a are having fewer kids. Local municipalities can control rules of over 55 communities without Bradley's opinion.

Anonymous said...

looks like Patriot2 is also George Ruth

The Locals do get to decide on their housing, but the LVPC provides regional guidance and data collection. This is easy to understand if you have anything above a fifth grade reading comprehension level. When good information is available you can make best possible decisions for your local community, including the long term impact of housing rather than just doing what seems right at that moment. You either want to be a lizard-brain or a more evolved brain.

Every new generation in general has fewer children, which is why large homes aren't going to be supported in the future not only for lack of children but also because the cost to maintain and heat these places is not affordable. This is especially true when no one really knows what will drive our economy in the future.

AuH20 said...

So if 200 people 55+ live in a development with people their own age is different from if they live spread out in that same municipality? Really? Tell me how that affects a school district one way or another. Besides, in 25 years the kiddies will all be taking their classes online just like their MBA-hungry parents do now. School building will be nearly obsolete.

Anonymous said...

Your point is exactly why 55+ communities are pointless and no changes to the HOA or deeds would be required in the future, because it would just be housing.

Patriot2 said...

11:14 thinks we need to fund a regional organization to track data & give advice on type of homes to build. That kind of thinking has created government bureaucracies at all levels of government. People including millennials will want larger homes once they get older and make more money--bad.assumption on your part that people will turn away from larger homes forever.

Anonymous said...

Governement has been collecting data forever (what rock have you been living under) and for good reason. This does not mean they're preventing you or anyone else from living how you want to live. The world you're living in is obviously incomprehensible to you. There's a lot of sprawl that has been left unchecked, I for one think there needs to be more control of how development occurs, this just makes sense for the long-term economic stability of our region state & country. Development left unchecked/unregulated eventually becomes a burden on every taxpayer. The most prosperous places around the world are smartly regulated. This anti-government mindset could become the downfall of our country.

Patriot2 said...

So tell me one thing LVPC has done to control sprawl with my tax money we are paying to that organization? They did nothing to stop tear down of Martin Tower or prevent another strip malls in the Lehigh Valley that encourages sprawl hurting downtowns.

Anonymous said...

It's not just your tax money, so maybe you shouldn't speak for everyone. If you don't like the way regional planning is handled in PA, you should tell your state legislator that you want the state law to require that regional plans be complied with by all municipalities involved. There are too many municipalities in PA, which is also why regional planning isn't as effective as it could be. Too many chiefs. I believe the LVPC is doing what it can to improve the Valley, it had the same director for nearly 50 years up until a couple years ago.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I was once an LVPC critic, but had no idea what they do. I was uninformed, and made ignorant assumptions. I have educated myself, and while I disagree with some of their specific decisions, their work is vitally important to the Lehigh Valley. I think they need to take a much harder look at traffic and stormwater problems in their comprehensive plan. Some of the environmentally designated areas are not, while some areas not designated are.

The concerns about 55+ homes are quite valid. In 25 years, when the baby boomers are dead, those developments will become white elephants with no appeal to the generation following them. Estates will be unable to sell off these homes, and state legislators will be asked to life the age restriction. This might already be under consideration in Jersey.

The whole reason for approving these projects id that there is little need for municipal services on no tax burden on schools. That could change dramatically.

This is why we have planning. We need people who look into these kinds of questions and come up with options. It would also help if the LVPC had teeth and was the real regional planner.

The opposition to LVPC is founded on a disdain for any form of government. It's the same argument Hamilton and Washington had with Jefferson and Madison, who wanted to divert attention away from their slaves.

George Ruth said...

Anon 4:28
....and the young'ns hated that long-time director because he lead the development of the valley to the suburbs. Yet it made sense to develop new businesses along the un-needed farmland that rimmed the LV 'beltway' of Rts 22,309,78 and the then-hoped-for Rt 33 extension. But that was based on the obvious: fewer people wanted to farm (jobs American's won't do), and the aging and decaying commercial buildings we had, virtually mandated by government because of the 'need' for fire sprinkler systems and lead paint, asbestos remediation, etc Developers were left with no choice but to build new on virgin land. No venality here, nor criminality...just the reality of the time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So if 200 people 55+ live in a development with people their own age is different from if they live spread out in that same municipality? Really? Tell me how that affects a school district one way or another"

Much different. For one thing, they live in a PRD community and pay assessments to that community for services that would otherwise be paid by the municipality, like snowplowing and road repairs. Thus, there is less demand for municipal services. The age restriction means that they send no kids to the schools, yet contribute to the taxes. It draws people from outside the area who would not want to live elsewhere.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"and the young'ns hated that long-time director because he lead the development of the valley to the suburbs."

Kaiser by no mean spearheaded the flight to the 'burbs. That's an incredibly ill-informed statement. The reason he was unpopular among the younger crowd is he opposed light rail, and was right to do so. And of course, it does make sense to plan business next to infrastructure.

Patriot2 said...

So Bernie what is not to like about an over 55 community since they pay taxes to the community & schools & county & require no services in return? Your 25 year assumption of no demand is purely speculative just like Bradley is doing. No one knows what 25 years brings just like global cooling predictors in the late 1970's.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Please tell me where I've said I dislike 55+ communities. I've said no such thing. I've reported Becky Bradley's claim that LVPC has concerns about them and will be monitoring them. They will gather data and determine if there is cause for that concern. In other words, they will NOT be speculative. That is the whole point of planning and gathering data. It stops speculation. It provides hard data. You want to do away with the one agency that is fact-oriented, yet complain about speculation. You defeat your own arguments.

George Ruth said...

"Much different. For one thing, they live in a PRD community and pay assessments to that community for services that would otherwise be paid by the municipality, like snowplowing and road repairs. Thus, there is less demand for municipal services. The age restriction means that they send no kids to the schools, yet contribute to the taxes. It draws people from outside the area who would not want to live elsewhere."

I would like to see the research that shows the census data that shows those in 55+ communities are from 'outside the area.'

Anonymous said...

Bernie said they draw people in from outside the area not they are all from outside the area.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have seen them at several meetings in Hanover, where there are two 55 plus communities. About half of them are from outside the Lehigh Valley. You'd like to see the research? That's why you have the LVPC. You could pay me to research it. $50 per hour. $500 up front. There is no doubt in my mind that 39-40% moving into these homes are from outside the LV. Since you want to get rid of an entity that can do this for free, you can hire me.

George Ruth said...

ahhh. So now we can profile people? I'm calling Obama on you! lol

Anonymous said...

Apples & Oranges

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm not profiling. I am telling you 55+ communities have appeal to and are marketed to people outside this area. If you want the data, you can pay for it.