Housing

Attractive housing and well maintained residential neighborhoods are one of the most important assets of any community. Good housing not only assures a sound residential tax base that will continue to appreciate in value, but also assures that residents are living in an environment that is conducive to a healthful and enjoyable quality of life.

The future quality, quantity, and condition of housing is important to the growth and prosperity of Dauphin County and its municipalities. Where an inadequate supply and/or substandard or deteriorated housing conditions exist, positive public and private action is required to prevent the spread of these conditions and to restore these areas to sound neighborhoods.

By analyzing existing housing characteristics and evaluating housing conditions, those areas of the County which require attention can be identified and recommendations for appropriate actions can be made in accordance with the goals of this plan.

Demand Trends

Perhaps one of the most important trends in assessing housing needs is that the demand for housing has been increasing at a greater rate than population since the number of persons per housing unit has been decreasing in all of Dauphin County’s municipalities since at least the past 50 years.

For Dauphin County as a whole, the number of persons per housing unit has gone from 2.91 in 1970 to 2.37 in 2010 (a decrease of 18.6%). This means that the number of housing units needed to accommodate 100 residents has increased from 34 to 42 during this time period.

The rates vary by municipality (see the Household Size Change tab in the Demographics Resource Guide), so this factor should be evaluated at the municipal or regional scale in any localized planning so the change in demand can be fully assessed.

Chart: Persons Per Household in Dauphin County, 1970 to 2010

The Regional Growth Management Plan (RGMP), which is under development concurrently with this plan, will contain population and housing projections that have been reviewed with all of Dauphin County’s municipalities.

While overall projections are valuable for comprehensive planning, municipalities should also consider the variety of available housing types and values when evaluating future demand.

Occupancy Status

Other key factors that impact the character and quality of the housing base involve whether housing units are owner or renter occupied and the vacancy rates for both types of housing units. These factors vary significantly across the County’s municipalities. 

For Dauphin County, the breakdown between owner occupied (approx. 65%) to renter occupied (approx. 35%) units has remained fairly constant since 1990. However, the percentage of occupied housing units has dropped from 93 to 92 percent during this period and the vacancy rate has increased for both owner and renter occupied units. 

The occupancy and vacancy rates and long-term trends vary significantly by municipality (see the Dwelling Unit Occupancy, Occupancy and Vacancy Rates, and Vacancy Breakdown tabs in the Housing Resource Guide), so this factor should be evaluated at the municipal or regional scale in any localized planning so the change in occupancy and vacancy can be fully assessed.

Increasing vacancy rates and high percentages of renter occupied housing, especially where landlords are not local or dedicated to maintaining their property, can have significant impacts on a wide range of issues including decreasing property value, increases in crime, safety concerns, etc.

Chart: Vacancy Rates: Homeowner and Renter

Sales & Affordability

The Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors (GHAR) has compiled and shared housing sale data for each municipality in Dauphin County from 2003-2016. The number of units sold, average sales price, and the number of days on the market have been compiled into totals or averages for Dauphin County and the data has been incorporated into the Housing Sales tab of the Housing Resource Guide. 

For the county as a whole, the number of units being sold annually has been generally increasing and values have been similarly increasing, while the number of days on the market has recovered from a significant slowdown after the recent recession. Like much of the other housing data, there are significant variations between the municipalities in terms of values and trends, so each municipality may want to evaluate their data as part of local planning efforts.

Chart: Housing Units Sold - Dauphin County 2003 to 2016
Chart: Housing Units - Average Number of Days on Market, Dauphin County, 2003 to 2016
Chart: Housing Units - Average Price

The U.S. Census Bureau provides data on the affordability of housing through a comparison of housing value and income levels. Residents are identified as “Cost Burdened” if housing-related costs account for more than 30% of a homeowner’s or renter’s income. Again, the results vary significantly by municipality and there are some variations between renters and homeowners, but there are a number of municipalities where more than one third of their property owners or renters are identified as cost burdened, thereby indicating a concern over housing affordability.

Percent of Cost Burdened Owner and Renter Occupied Units by Municipality Click for interactive map

Percent of Cost Burdened Owner and Renter Occupied Units by Municipality
Click for interactive map

There are cost burden tabs in the Housing Resource Guide that municipalities can use to evaluate the housing sale data in the context of resident income, thereby assessing affordability within their community.

While affordability of the housing stock is critical to accommodate younger and low income buyers or renters, the quality and condition of housing is also important. Understanding the importance of the quality and condition of housing, Tri-County Community Action has undertaken a pilot project that assesses the condition of structures in some areas of the City of Harrisburg.

Expanding this effort across a broader portion of Dauphin County would help establish a baseline for the effective use of rehabilitation, renovation, or demolition programs that would have positive effects on property values, housing choice, crime prevention, and overall quality of life.

PRIMARY GOALS

  • Expand fair housing choice and access to opportunity;
  • Help build cooperative relationships between new housing developers, local municipal governments and other key stakeholders;
  • Evaluate and improve regulations & zoning ordinances to address key housing challenges;
  • Conduct research and educate residents, officials, and developers on key housing issues.


KEY ACTION ITEMS

  • Evaluate existing zoning and subdivision regulations for their effect on housing affordability;
  • Identify and inventory substandard housing as a tool to improve public and private sector programs to upgrade existing housing quality and value, including rehabilitation, adaptive re-use, clearance of substandard and blighted structures, as well as construction of in-fill housing;
  • Provide for emergency housing needs, provided they are not used as substitutes for permanent housing or as long-term solutions;
  • Educate municipalities found to have discriminatory language in their ordinances about the potential loss of CDBG and other federal funding eligibility;
  • As the items listed herein are put into action, the Implementation Partners should seek to continue their efforts toward the accomplishment of the plan’s goals through the identification and implementation of additional efforts deemed appropriate by the their committee and the County Commissioners. Any such actions should be publicly identified in the “Tracking Our Progress” section of the Comprehensive Plan Website.