Local officials announced today that Lancaster was selected to participate in the Housing Solutions Workshop — a program sponsored by the NYU Furman Center’s Housing Solutions Lab, Abt Associates and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to help small and midsize communities develop and implement comprehensive local housing strategies.
Lancaster will be represented by staff from the City of Lancaster, Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority, and Lancaster City Housing Authority. Other cities selected include Arvada, CO; Billings, MT; New Haven, CT; and Gresham, OR. Senior officials from key housing agencies and regional partners in these communities will take part in a series of virtual sessions led by prominent housing experts and researchers.
“As rents climb to new highs, it’s more important than ever for local leaders to use strategic, evidence-informed policies to fight back,” said Martha Galvez, Executive Director of the Housing Solutions Lab. “Affordable housing is the lynchpin of so many interconnected challenges facing small and midsize cities, and we’re thrilled to tackle them with this year’s group of innovators.”
National data show dramatic increases in rent and home prices over the last year, while the rental vacancy rate is at its lowest level in almost 40 years. The housing market volatility during the pandemic has been especially daunting for local policy makers. With housing costs continuing to put pressure on renters and prospective homebuyers in small and midsize cities, local governments can benefit from resources and technical assistance to help them navigate these challenges and build housing that meets the needs of residents.
Like many communities nationally, the City of Lancaster faces a housing cost burden driven by a shortage in housing supply and the prevalence of families facing wage stagnation or low-wage jobs as the cost of living continues to rise. Approximately one-third of households are housing cost burdened, a condition that has become more precarious because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the City’s housing stock does not align with current household compositions in that most homes are single family, multi-bedroom dwellings while most households are composed of just one or two people.
The City of Lancaster has committed to increasing the supply, quality, and diversity of housing in the city with an emphasis on increasing and improving affordable housing for both rent and purchase. Housing studies and planning show a need for a minimum of 300 additional affordable housing units and rehabilitation of a minimum of 1,000 existing affordable housing units within the city over the next five years.
“As Lancaster continues to face rising housing costs, collaboration between the City and the County is essential. The Housing Solutions Workshop is a great opportunity for Lancaster to expand on joint solutions for affordable housing,” said Mayor Danene Sorace.
“The Housing Solutions Workshop is a unique opportunity for the County and City and a step in the right direction to answer many questions related to housing affordability and availability. The goal outcome of the Workshop will provide the basis and framework for countywide study which will lead to housing strategies that will guide local policy, programming and financial resources in the future” said Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Executive Director, Justin Eby.
The selected communities were chosen following a national Call for Applications that generated a high volume of strong applications. The process included written submissions, as well as an interview round with applicants, who were ultimately selected to build a cohort of communities at similar stages of the planning process. The Workshop began on October 3 and runs through October 20.