City rezones commercial area for housing

YORK – The York City Council has passed an ordinance that will allow multiple family dwellings in the C-3 commercial zone, to include apartment buildings, town houses, condominiums and the like.

In other words – multiple family housing units will be allowed in the area of the interchange and the Highway 81 corridor that runs between the city proper and the area by the interstate.

The decision was made as the city’s housing needs continue to increase. It is also an effort to provide housing for the many individuals who work in the area of the interchange.

York County has a housing need in itself, which was shown by recent updates of the county’s housing survey. Lisa Hurley, executive director of the York County Development Corporation (YCDC), presented the findings to the city council.

“York County’s economy and employment shows our strong economy has had a significant impact on housing and housing demand,” Hurley told the council. “Our unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels. This is now just an issue for York County, as nearly all the surrounding counties are at full employment. New residents must be attracted to this area to address this issue.”

She continued, regarding the findings, in that “71% of York County’s housing stock is owner-occupied. According to the American Community Survey, there are 607 units vacant out of 6,298 housing units vacant – 9.6%. Every landlord, realtor, community clerk, business and myself will tell out that does not mean there are 607 quality units available. Actually (at the time the conversation was held), there were 12 for sale housing units on the market. To put this in perspective, a health community should have 5-8% available housing on the market in a variety of options and price points. This would be 315-504 units.”

Hurley continued with valuable information, saying, “York’s value to income is 2.13 with an average of $530 rent. “Newer units with higher rental rates have entered the market since 2018, some older units may have lowered rates or remodeled to stay competitive. I looked up the rent figure yesterday and it is now $804. An affordable, self-sustaining housing market, with adequate value and revenues to support market-rate new construction, will typically have a value of 2.5-2 – 2.13 value means that developers or even a private home will have trouble cash-flowing a project.

“Since 2018, the city has built over 100 units likely supporting greater growth,” she said. “Despite the new development, there are still a small number of houses for sale and stakeholders noted continued demand for rental units. There are shortages for households with incomes greater than $50,9000 and demand by 2025 has been estimated to be 112 rental units and 112 owner units.

“The total need by 2030 is 467, of which half is rental,” Hurley told the council, “and half should be owner-occupied. You will see the needs by value as well. We should be constructing 48 units annually. I would like to note that since May 10, 2021, the city has issued permits for 19 new single-family homes. There have been 12 completed and seven are currently in process.

“The strong economy and the relatively young population should position York to grow over the next decade,” Hurley said. “This opportunity depends on the ability of York to realize private market investment to create high quality neighborhood development. The continued addition of homes on the market will help improve housing opportunities, overall housing quality and the city’s tax base.”

Hurley also reminded the council, “since May 10, 2021, there have been 19 permits issued, when we should be constructing 48 units annually. This has put us behind on construction already. I do believe we are making some headway on neighborhood conservation, wayfinding and on-lot development. I can also add we have hundreds of job openings right now and we do not have the beds for the jobs to be recruited. NEWorks, alone, had 620 jobs that were either hybrid onsite positions. I believe the housing needs presented are underestimated, due to changes and growth in our economy, which remains strong in York County. Being at full-employment means we have officially hit both a workforce and housing crisis. Housing continues to be a major challenge as businesses are recruiting employes who want to live here. We have people now who want to move here and sometimes are walking away from the job opportunity and others are finding a house or apartment up to an hour away, which turns into a retention challenge. We are posted for a major growth opportunity if we can get our hands around a couple of issues to solve, of which housing is one.”

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