Five years ago, the West Whiteland Township proposed or was under construction for more than 1,600 residential units. Residents of the Chester County community were “a little surprised and a little worried about this,” said John Weller, head of planning and zoning for the town.
Concerned that some new homes might be empty, authorities asked developers to investigate the town’s housing demand.
“I remember taking a closer look at this presentation and feeling that we weren’t enough as long as we had it,” Weller said. Over the last few years, housing construction has been booming in a town of about 20,000 people.
Last year, 3,743 homes were built in Chester County. This is more than any other year since 2001. County annual housing report, Released this month. In addition, rising home prices set the median selling price of the county to a record $ 420,000 in 2021, but last year more homes were sold than in any year since 2005.
According to census data, Chester County’s population increased by 7% between 2010 and 2020, comparable to Montgomery County. Faster than any other county in the region..
“We are the place where people want to live,” said Brian O’Leary, Managing Director of the Chester County Planning Commission. “Chester County has a lot of charm.”
One of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania, the county, like other countries, has not built enough housing to meet demand and allows residents of different occupations to stay. I’m looking for a way.
“If there’s a good time to dent the problem, it’s time,” Oleary said.
At the same time, county authorities are proud of the conservation of open spaces, which have been shown to improve quality of life and increase the value of nearby assets. According to county data, as of early 2021, 30% of the county was protected by open space.
“It’s a balancing act,” O’Leary said. He estimates that the county is approximately 40% developed. “There is still a lot of land.”
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According to the county, about one-seventh of the homes sold in Chester County in 2021 were considered “affordable” for less than $ 250,000. Both homebuyers and lessors are under pressure. Apartments built in the county tend to be upscale.
“You have the rent you hear and you’re a little surprised,” O’Leary said.
More than half of the houses built in the county in 2021 — 1,963 — were apartments. According to the county, this is more than three times the number built in 2020. Construction of many apartments began in 2020, but the county does not consider the apartment building to be “built” until 50% is occupied.
According to O’Leary, apartments are unlikely to occupy such a high share of homebuilding in the future. However, aging populations, shrinking households, and the cost of homes for sale will continue to ensure strong demand.
To make the house more affordable, O’Leary said the county needs more units of smaller size.
According to the Housing Report, Toledi Flynn Township showed the widest range of home selling prices in the county in 2021. Erin McPherson, director of Tredyffrin’s planning and zoning, was surprised but pointed out the variety of homes in the town. Much of the housing stock is single-family homes, but like the Chesterbrook section, there are many townhouses and twins, smaller lots, cheaper, and more dense pockets.
The Phoenix Building Autonomous Region sought to force developers to commit to a certain number of affordable units in the project, said Autonomous Region manager E. Jean Krack. [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] What that means, how to do it, and how to validate it. There are no staff in the autonomous region.
Instead, developers have so far donated more than $ 150,000 to a fund managed by an affordable public-private housing alliance looking for ways to offset resident housing costs. One idea is to guarantee deposits to people who can afford to pay monthly rent but do not have high prepaid costs.
Soaring construction costs have also pushed up house prices. Also, increasing regulations at all levels of government on safeguards such as water quality protection and stormwater management add time and cost to the project, Peter Rotelle said. Owner of Rotelle Development Co, based in Chester County.. He said the streamlined process would help lower costs for builders and homeowners.
“We need the right balance of cost, environment and time, and we can do it all and achieve it, but it’s quick and cost-effective,” he said.
The county was a great place for his company, Rotelle said. It has a “great buyer pool” and the median home price is in the sweet spot of his company’s single-family home.
“The challenge is that the land is in very low stock,” he said. He lost land due to conservation, an effort he supports. But it’s a balancing act, “no controls are actually in place to ensure the seesaw is level,” he said.
Municipalities ultimately make zoning decisions, and counties can guide those decisions. The county awards urban renewal and planning grants to support specific projects. Advise local governments on planning work. Its open space program protects land that you do not want to develop.
The county’s comprehensive plan identified the suburbs and city centers as key areas for growth given the existing infrastructure and access to transportation systems and jobs, O’Leary said. .. Multipurpose development is underway in areas such as Exton in West Whiteland.
According to Weller, in 2020 and 2021, there were projects in the town where nearly 500 new residential units were built. West Whiteland has directed most of its development to the core around the main street of the Exton shopping center.
According to Weller, nearly 1,000 of the more than 1,600 townhouses and apartments proposed in several major developments between 2015 and 2018 were in the center of town. Townships are zoned to allow commercial spaces, apartments, townhouses, offices, and “everything you need to create an area like almost downtown.” “This is pretty radical, especially for the suburban community,” he said.
West Whiteland officials were planning to grow, but the pace of development and all the timing at once surprised them. And it has disturbed some residents, especially those who remember the countryside of West Whiteland decades ago.Township officials are educating residents about their plans through a campaign called “Development by design.”
“We’ve built up a fair amount,” Weller said. “I don’t admit the reality that we still think we’ll be a country. It wasn’t.”
Brandywine Realty Trust plans to buy Exton Square Mall Originally from the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, West Whiteland officials are excited about the possibility of adding more housing as Township has run out of space available for development and is considering redevelopment.
Encouraging local governments to use land in new ways is a step that county authorities can take to influence regional development, O’Leary said. He pointed out Phoenix Building as an example.
In 2018, the autonomous region built a new public works building in the town’s industrial area. Currently, Phoenix Building has finalized an agreement with the Hankin Group to hand over an acre of former public works site in the heart of downtown. In return, developers plan to build 50 apartments for residents over the age of 62. The autonomous region’s manager, Krack, states that most units will cost between $ 400 and $ 500 per month.
The certificate limit is that if a real estate owner stops offering affordable housing on the premises, the owner will have to pay the autonomous region, no matter how valuable the land is at that time. Means.
The Pennsylvania Housing and Financial Services Agency approved a tax credit for the project in November, and authorities are hoping for a breakthrough late summer. The project has the potential to get 10 times more applications than an apartment, Krack said. “I need it.”
But the plan was “not an easy sale,” he said. Some people wanted the autonomous region to sell the land (in a valuable place) and put the money into a general fund. Instead, he said, “We are contributing to affordable housing for the elderly in the autonomous region.”