Migration report shows Lancaster and Hershey attracting new residents

Bucking a statewide trend, two central Pennsylvania cities/towns are seeing more people moving in than out so far this year.

Lancaster and Hershey rank first and second in moveBuddha’s 2021-2022 Pennsylvania Migration Report, with search data showing 159 moves into Lancaster for every 100 moves out.

The info was collected from Jan. 1 to Oct. 10 of this year, encompassing searches nationwide by individuals who were planning to move themselves or hire a moving company in 2022.

For its report, moveBuddha looked at only cities or towns with at least 25 inbound and 25 outbound searches, identifying 55 in Pennsylvania that were the most popular.

While Lancaster came in a clear first, Hershey edged out Kennett Square for second, with 132 moves in for every 100 moves out.

The vast majority of cities and towns on the list, however – 38 of 55 – showed the opposite trend.

A blog post on moveBuddha said Pennsylvania has the 13th worst migration ratio of the 50 states so far in 2022, with 83 people arriving for every 100 leaving.

What makes Lancaster a destination, moveBuddha said, is its history and diversity, plus its proximity to the more rural areas of the county. “It provides more space for folks looking to leave the denser Philly metro area,” for example.

Hershey was praised for its small-town atmosphere, which “is attractive to many.”

Some other highlights from the report:

· Florida is the top destination for those moving out of the commonwealth, followed by California, Texas, North Carolina and New York. One possible factor cited for Florida’s top ranking is its lack of income tax.

· Lebanon, Levittown, Monroeville, Norristown and Pottstown are all seeing two times more moves headed out than in this year.

· Over the past few years, Pennsylvania has seen negative net migration. Better job opportunities in other states and the shift to remote work are cited as potential reasons.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Industrial vacancy rates keep falling in central Pa., beyond

Activity in the Interstate 81/78 and greater Philadelphia industrial markets continued at a healthy pace in the third quarter, despite a drop-off in demand from the year before.

The two reports from Newmark Real Estate show lease rates are still rising as vacancy rates fall.

In the I-81/78 corridor, which includes the central Pennsylvania, northeastern Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley submarkets, 29.6 million square feet is under construction, as land prices climb to peak levels. “With demand slowing, it will be interesting to monitor how much of the available speculative space coming online will be pre-leased before completion,” the report noted.

Positive absorption totaled just under 7 million square feet, bringing the year-to-date number to 19.1 million square feet.

Third-quarter vacancy fell to 5.3%, down from 8.6% a year ago. On average, asking rental rates for all industrial property types rose to $5.31 per square foot, an increase of 3.9% year over year.

Central Pennsylvania leads the way

Vacancy in the central Pennsylvania region was just 3.7%, lowest of the three I-81/78 submarkets. It also led in positive absorption, with 8.6 million square feet year to date, 3.1 million of that in the third quarter.

Among the major tenants taking occupancy were UPS moving into its newly built 775,000-square-foot East Zone Regional Hub at 2110 N. Union St., Middletown; Life Technologies Corp. relocating to Greencastle Logistics Center at 1611 Ebberts Spring Court, Greencastle; and Sun Run occupying 423,000 square feet in Susquehanna Logistics Center at 10874 Second Amendment Drive, Glen Rock.

Newmark reported that asking rents for warehouse and distribution space in central Pennsylvania are up 8.9% year over year, averaging $5.14 per square foot.

The real estate company also noted that 13 million square feet of the 29.6 million square feet under construction in the I-81/78 corridor is in central Pennsylvania.

Boohoo signed the largest lease of the quarter, for nearly 1.1 million square feet at 2771 N. Market St. in the First Logistics Center @ 283, Elizabethtown. In addition, Amazon leased 551,030 square feet at 121 Commerce Ave. in the Matrix I-81 Logistics Center, Greencastle, and Bowman Logistics renewed its lease for 447,000 square feet at 2294 Molly Pitcher Highway, Chambersburg.

Lots of activity in Lancaster County

In the second Newmark third-quarter report, for greater Philadelphia, Lancaster County is included in the southeastern Pennsylvania coverage area and saw some major tenants lease space.

Tyreflow Environmental Inc. moved into a 250,320-square-foot building at 1905 Horseshoe Road, Lancaster, and Ahold Delhaize occupied the newly constructed 250,000-square-foot cold storage building at 3800 Hempland Road, Mountville.

And once it’s completed later this year, the 325,500-square-foot building under construction at 2222 N. Reading Road, Denver, will be home to PureCycle LLC.

This quarter’s largest investment sale in southeastern Pennsylvania was in also in Lancaster County, with Dalfen Industrial buying the 251,250-square-foot warehouse at 791 Stony Battery Road, Landisville, for $29 million from Catalyst Commercial Development LLC. That comes out to $115 per square foot.

The overall vacancy rate in the southeastern Pennsylvania submarket fell to 3.9% from 4.7% a year earlier, with Lancaster County coming in at 1.5%, the lowest of the six counties in the coverage area.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Local housing market stays busy but shows signs of slowdown  

Home prices continue to rise in central Pennsylvania but surging mortgage rates and shrinking affordability may be starting to dampen demand. 

That’s the general trend for the region, according to April data, as countywide housing sales are either the same or lower than they were a year ago. 

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors reported that the median sales price of all houses closed in the state last month – $204,274 – hit the highest level in over five years. That’s up 13.4% over the same time last year. 

York-Adams market 

“A lack of inventory continues to be an issue driving the home buying market,” Elle Hale, 2022 president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties, said in a release. “For the first time this year, the number of home sales is slightly less than the same time period last year in York County. 

“As interest rates have risen over 5% and home sale prices continuing to escalate, our concern is housing affordability. According to statistics compiled by the National Association Realtors, purchasing a home is 55% more expensive than a year ago.” 

In York County, the 1,946 houses sold through the first four months of 2022 are 1% fewer than at this time last year. The 348 settlements in Adams County are the same. 

The year-to-date median sales price of $265,270 in Adams is 13% more than the year before; the median sales price in York County is 8% more, up to $226,000. 

In April alone, home sales numbers showed a 13.6% increase in Adams (from 95 to 108) and a 6.3% drop in York (from 568 to 532). Also last month, the median sales price in Adams was $281,000, a 13% increase from 2021. The median sales price in York County was $229,450, a 5% increase. 

Hale said in a phone interview that mortgage rates are causing some buyers to be a little hesitant. 

The jump in rates, which results in higher monthly mortgage payments, “is definitely helping to slow things down,” she said. 

As to the persistent inventory shortage, “springtime usually brings more sellers, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” Hale said. 

The difficulty for sellers, however, may be finding a home to move into. 

“It’s great you want to sell,” she said, “but I want make sure you have somewhere to go.” 

Harrisburg-area market 

In April, closed sales fell in Cumberland County (274 to 269), Dauphin County (347 to 314) and Perry County (36 to 35). 

The median sold price was up 9% in Cumberland ($267,000 to $290,950), 15% in Dauphin ($200,000 to $230,000) and 34% in Perry ($156,000 to $208,900). 

Average days on market in April averaged between 16 and 19 among the three counties. 

Sylvia Hess, 2022 president of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, said in an email that buyer demand remains strong, “though I believe we are seeing less offers per property. It depends upon price point, but where we had been seeing eight to 10-plus offers on certain properties (especially anything in the $200-$250k price range), some of those now are seeing one to three offers versus eight to 10.” 

New listings continue to arrive, she said, “with active listings giving buyers a bit more inventory to choose from.” 

Hess said rising mortgage rates have priced some buyers out of the market, “but they have not had a huge impact – yet.” 

She predicted that rate increases will have more of a negative effect in the coming months, “especially if they crest 6% as predictors are indicating. Inflation is also a big factor in buyer affordability.” 

“If sellers are sitting on the fence, they may want to move swiftly in listing their properties,” Hess said. “Contrary to what some are thinking, I don’t foresee a big ‘market shift’ by any means. I simply see the rate of price increases slowing from the breakneck pace we’ve been seeing, but still increasing. The same goes for buyers; it is still a great time to purchase.” 

Citing the increases in equity over the last several years, she said that “those that purchased even a year ago are happy they didn’t wait.” 

Lancaster market 

In Lancaster County, April home sales totaled 455, the identical number from April 2021. But they were up 21.3% from the previous month, climbing from 375. 

The median sold price was $280,000, an increase of 12% from a year ago. 

In April, average days on market was 13, and 342 of the houses sold last month went under contract between one and 10 days. 

The average sold to original list price ratio was 104.7%, meaning numerous homes fetched more than their asking price. 

Categories with the most sales were three-bedroom detached houses in the $200,000-$399,999 range and three-bedroom attached/townhomes in the $200,000-$299,999 range. 

“I was glad to see an uptick in sales in April – we are still down 9.4% year to date, but April numbers were a bit of a surprise,” Greg Bardell, 2022 president of the Lancaster County Association of Realtors, wrote via email. 

“I think when you look at the pending sales figures for April, we may see that translate into a bit of a dip again in May and June,” he said, as the industry starts to focus on mortgage rates and braces for the impact they may have the rest of the year. 

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer. 

Pressley Ridge gets record donation of $10 million

Pressley Ridge, a nationally recognized provider of mental health, treatment foster care and specialized education services for youth and families, announced that has received a $10 million unrestricted gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

This is the single largest donation the Pittsburgh-based organization, whose footprint includes central Pennsylvania, has received in its 190-year history.

The grant will allow Pressley Ridge to increase organizational capacity and address the critical mental and behavioral health needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic in communities it serves throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

“We are grateful for and humbled by Ms. Scott’s investment in Pressley Ridge’s mission,” Susanne Cole, Pressley Ridge president and CEO, said in a release. “This gift will enhance our ability to serve the increasing complex needs of youth and families in our communities. It will also accelerate our work as it relates to racial equity and bolster our commitment to leadership development in this field to advance clinical outcomes and best practices.”

The business case for diversity, equity and inclusion 

Keynote speaker Holly Evans, president of Evans Engineering, speaks to a panel of four experts at CPBJ and LVB’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit on March 29.

“Why do we even care about doing this?” 

Launching a panel discussion, Monica Gould posed the question at the March 29 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summit hosted by Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business. 

Here’s why, she answered: A more equitable, inclusive organization, with diversity of thought and experience, creates innovation and a corporate culture people want to be a part of. 

Plus, it reduces turnover and potential productivity loss, explained Gould, president/founder of Strategic Consulting Partners. 

The business case for diversity, equity and inclusion – DEI for short – was just one of the themes brought out at the summit, which featured keynote speaker Holly Evans, president of Evans Engineering, and a panel of four experts. 

Evans spoke on the topic “Female in a male world: learning how to succeed under a new set of rules.” 

She started her business in 1989, and spent years building up the enterprise and raising a family while struggling with gender identity. 

“I knew I was different from a very young age,” Evans said. “Though I was assigned male at birth, I always wish I’d been born female. I would go to bed at night hoping to wake up the next morning as a girl.” 

In adulthood, Evans learned to lead as a man. But away from the male-driven culture at work, Evans would express a feminine side. 

It wasn’t until much later in life “that I learned I was not alone.” 

She was married 31 years before coming out as transgender to her spouse. 

Evans said she gets asked, ‘Why do you choose to be transgender?’ 

“You don’t choose it,” she said. “It is simply who you are. I was fortunate. My wife, my children stuck by my side. This isn’t always the case.” 

After coming out, Evans got to experience what it’s like for females in a male-dominated field – and the perspective was eye-opening. 

She spent months reintroducing herself as a woman. “I quickly experienced exclusion,” Evans said. Whether that rejection was due to her being a female or transgender is not certain. 

Evans was required to network all over again, re-establish confidence and learn to make new friends and clients. 

“Gone were the days of being sought after for advice,” she said. “Gone were the days of walking into a meeting and taking charge. I began to feel what it was like to feel invisible.” 

Evans figured out how to get male colleagues’ attention without damaging egos, to showcase her expertise. No longer part of the ‘guys’ club,’ “I had to gain trust and respect in a way I never had to before,” she said. 

Presenting sponsor for the summit was WellSpan Health; The Giant Co. was program partner and Moravian University was leadership sponsor. Supporting sponsors were First National Bank, Truist, Reading Hospital – Tower Health and Strategic Consulting Partners. Patron sponsors were Highmark, Members 1st Credit Union, Penn State Harrisburg and Penn State Health. 

‘Diversity brings us together’ 

Joining Gould on the panel were Aaysha Noor, head of diversity, equity and inclusion for Giant; Nakeesha Muldrow, vice president of finance, access and scheduling for WellSpan; and Lynette Chappell Williams, vice president and chief diversity officer for Penn State Health. 

No matter the size of a business or organization, Gould said, there are some key DEI principles that apply. “How are you bringing people together so they can be productive in the workplace based upon your mission?” 

Noor was asked to comment on a quote of hers about celebrating diversity, not tolerating it. “You tolerate pain,” she said. “You should embrace diversity and inclusion.” 

Science shows that feeling excluded hurts in our brain the same as physical pain, Noor explained. DEI is “the right thing to do.” 

“All of us are passionate about this work because of our own personal experiences,” Gould said. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. … It takes all of us to do it together.” 

Muldrow said, “Our patients are reassured when we demonstrate that we know them – whether that’s proactively making sure we have interpretation services, understanding their cultural norms and expectations,” addressing patients by their preferred name (not an assumed pronoun) or thanking veterans for their service. 

“The better you know and connect with your community the better you serve their needs,” she said. 

When asked about how to deal with people who are skeptical or defensive about DEI, Muldrow said, “It’s all about approach. Talk about what unites us” and not just the differences. 

The panel also mentioned the tendency to overlook certain populations when discussing DEI, such as people with disabilities. 

Williams said Penn State’s DEI policy – which includes employees and patients – incorporates the values of respect, integrity, teamwork and excellence. Homophobic or racist jokes clearly violate the policy, as does a patient’s refusal to be treated by a provider of a certain race or ethnicity. 

“Patients like the fact that we’re setting a high standard for a respectful environment.” 

This policy also attracts employees, especially millennials and generation Z. “They have grown up in diversity,” she said. “They have an expectation (the) organizations they’re going to work for (are) actually living and breathing these concepts of diversity and inclusion.” 

Employers who don’t recognize that will have trouble hiring and retaining workers, Muldrow said. 

Organizations that adapt are relevant, Williams said, while those that don’t become relics. 


HDC MidAtlantic puts affordable housing close to jobs   

HDC Atlantic’s Beach Run development offers affording housing close to job centers along Interstates 81 and 78.  PHOTO / PROVIDED

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.” 

Dana Hanchin, president and CEO of Lancaster-based HDC MidAtlantic, hopes to use Beach Run as a template in other communities where there is an imbalance between available jobs and available housing. PHOTO / PROVIDED

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. 

Affordable rents 

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. 

The apartments will help tenants connect to various resources, including Lebanon Family Health Services, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and First Community Citizens Bank. 

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.