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Bethlehem among 5 cities to participate in Housing Solutions Workshops

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy announced in October that Bethlehem was one of five localities across the U.S. selected to participate in a series of Housing Solutions Workshops – a program to help small and midsize communities develop and implement comprehensive local housing strategies. Bethlehem, along with Gallatin County, Montana; Huntsville, Alabama; Kalamazoo County, Michigan; and Pasco, Washington, together, will learn about the scope and engagement needed to create a comprehensive housing strategy. Local officials, housing advocates and agencies/partners will take part in a series of eight virtual workshops led by highly prominent housing experts and researchers across the country.

“Almost 50 percent of our households are occupied by low and moderate income families making less than $50,000 per year’” says Mayor Robert J. Donchez. “Since home prices and rents have increased significantly, we need to look at this housing crisis comprehensively, to better understand what our next steps should be.”

Bethlehem answered a national Call for Applications and was awarded a seat at the table. The application process included a written submission as well as a local interview with Workshop leaders. Workshops began Oct. 25 and will run through Nov. 18.

Historic research shows that between1960 and 2016, the national median income rose by about 11 percent while the median rents rose by 80 percent. The growing rent burden on American households has real consequences -- more stable, affordable housing is associated with better outcomes related to health, education and earnings.

As it stands, one-third of households in the Lehigh Valley spend over 30 percent of income a month on rent or mortgages, with the highest concentration of cost-burdened households in the region’s three core cities. This trend is partly a function of poverty or unemployment, especially following the pandemic, but it’s also driven by soaring costs and limited supply. The crisis of affordability threatens to put eventual homeownership – or even an affordable rental – out of reach (Source: RealClear Policy, article by Addison Del Mastro, August, 03, 2021).

Martha Galvez, executive director of the Housing Solutions Lab states “There is innovation and energy coming from small and midsize places to address housing affordability and other critical housing challenges. This Housing Solutions Workshop will help connect and coordinate these efforts, both within participating communities and among a national group of peers dealing with similar challenges.”

If you would like more information about the workshop process, contact Tina Roseberry croseberry@bethlehem-pa.gov.

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