Housing Affordability

Affordability has long been an issue in the highly active WSSD housing market. Housing prices have risen substantially as Covid has gone on and people have moved out to the suburbs (and further) to find more space for their families. Even before the pandemic, when 310 Wallingford was being rezoned and developed, one of the main issues was affordability of the units – although in the final accounting, many families wouldn’t call even the resulting higher density units “affordable”.

Housing prices are climbing in 19086, a 38% rise in the last year. Data from Redfin.

Prices rising upwards are causing concern in Swarthmore. The proposed 110 Park development is coming to the borough planning commission this month with pricey storefronts and upscale apartments replacing the existing cheaper apartments and stores in their current historic buildings as well as one of the few green spaces in the downtown. Some residents have started a petition calling for more affordable housing, and I’m told the borough council will be considering a task force to study affordability and land use in the borough at its November 1st meeting. If approved, that task force faces a difficult challenge. I’ve never found housing in Swarthmore to be affordable – when we moved into the area we couldn’t afford the taxes on houses, let alone the mortgage.

Although Garden City remains the most “affordable” area of the school district, prices are rising here as in neighboring municipalities. There’s a 40×100 lot down the hill on Maple that someone wants $150k for. Before Covid you could have bought a house on a lot that size for that price. Houses in the Manor are now approaching $200k. Buying a house at that price would roughly correspond to a mortgage payment of the entire salary of someone making minimum wage, so I’m not sure how “affordable” it is (or how livable PA’s minimum wage is).

Nether Providence Township is starting to look at a new comprehensive plan, and a part of that plan needs to address the increasingly expensive housing in Nether Providence while raising the tax base. Likely this means denser housing in parts of the township and expanding commercial property zoning to ease the tax burden on homeowners. But as residential property is more highly valued here than commercial property, I’m not sure how that’ll work. Developers will clearly want to build more houses, not commercial property, as the return will be better. And then there’s the issue of where to locate commercial property as much of the township’s commercial property has already been converted. Likely if there’s to be any commercial development, the township would have to take a more active approach to encourage it.

Categories: Ramblings