The shortage of affordable housing is acute nationwide, and central Pennsylvania is no exception.
HDC MidAtlantic’s just-completed Beach Run Apartments in Bethel Township, Lebanon County, are for residents who earn from 20% to 80% of area median income. They’re also located within easy access of major employers, making them a prime example of desperately needed workforce housing.
An article on housingfinance.com called Beach Run’s 51 units the first new construction of affordable housing for families in Lebanon County in close to two decades.
Asked about the definition of workforce housing, Karen Groh, president and CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email: “I think of it as affordable housing designed to match the needs of employers and wages in a given region.”
She further explained that the phrase is “generally understood to mean affordable housing for households with an earned income that is insufficient to secure quality housing in reasonable proximity to the workplace.”
To better understand the issue, Groh said, community leaders have been asking for a housing study to be included in the county’s updated comprehensive plan.
“What I can say is that (in) mid-October, Lebanon County had over 6,200 job openings posted and only 1,200 people on unemployment. That leaves a huge gap in our workforce needed to fulfill the demand. Housing plays a factor in this as it can be a deterrent when someone is looking to relocate for a job.”
Census estimates included in Forward Together Lebanon’s Economic Recovery Plan show that 44% of renters in Lebanon County experience cost burden, which means they spend at least 30% of their income on housing. The comparable figure for homeowners is 20%.
Beach Run’s location is key, Groh said.
“There is so much business growth in the Fredericksburg area, creating a tremendous need for employee housing. If you don’t have housing, you can’t attract individuals and families to move to the area to fill the jobs. Housing needs to be close to the job opportunities as transportation can be a barrier to employment. Beach Run is not only an affordable option but it is … close to many large employers, like Bell & Evans.”
Dana Hanchin is president and CEO of Lancaster-based HDC MidAtlantic, which develops, owns and manages affordable housing communities in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. It serves more than 4,000 residents in 55 communities, owning and/or managing 3,001 apartments. Its other community in Lebanon County is Deer Lake Apartments in North Cornwall Township.
In addition to Bell & Evans, she noted that Beach Run is close to other employers, such as Sherwin Williams and Ace Hardware.
Providing workers with affordable housing that’s accessible to jobs is what improves their quality of life, Hanchin said. The need is overwhelming. HDC MidAtlantic receives 100 inquiries a day by phone or email for its units, she said.
Beach Run was constructed in nine buildings, with the final one finished at the end of September. A ribbon cutting was held Oct. 7.
“Pretty much when we completed the last building we moved in the last family,” Hanchin said.
HDC MidAtlantic hopes to use Beach Run as a template in other areas where there are available jobs and a dearth of workforce housing, she said.
“We would love to bring this to communities” that are open to it, Hanchin said.
Beach Run features one-, two- and three-bedroom income-limited apartments. Section 8 vouchers are accepted.
Six of the rentals comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and two of those include features for residents who are hearing or vision impaired. Five apartments also have a preference for military veterans.
Rents – which also cover water, sewer, and trash removal – are $202 to $834 for a one-bedroom apartment, $239 to $987 for a two bedroom and $273 to $1,320 for a three bedroom.
Six of the units are set aside for tenants earning 20% or less of area median income; 20 for residents at 50% or less; 20 for those at 60% or less; and five for households at 80% or less.
For example, the limit for a family of four at 50% of area median income is $38,100. At 60%, it’s $45,720. Minimum income limits also apply.
Each apartment comes with a balcony or patio. The community is pet friendly and smoke free.
Beach Run has laundry facilities, energy-efficient appliances, 24-hour emergency maintenance service and off-street parking. A playground is planned as well.
Hanchin said there’s also a walking trail, and a sidewalk that connects to the town of Fredericksburg. “It’s very lovely.”
The $14.6 million project received $250,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. First Citizens Community Bank, M&T Bank and Truist provided $200,000, $25,000 and $25,000, respectively. Another financial institution, Fulton Bank, provided financing during construction.
Beach Run also was awarded $1.23 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
A market study HDC MidAtlantic commissioned before Beach Run was built found that there was pent-up demand in the region for more LIHTC projects.
Arthur Funk & Sons, of Lebanon, the general contractor for the apartments, and Steckbeck Engineering & Surveying Inc., of Lebanon, were among the area businesses involved in making the new rental community a reality.
At HDC MidAtlantic, Hanchin said, investing in the local economy is a priority.