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Mayor’s Report to City Council – March 23, 2021

March 25, 2021 | Mayor's Office
By: Mayor Danene Sorace

Tonight I want to give you a brief preview of what’s to come over the next two months as it relates to housing. April is Fair Housing Month. This month is intended to recognize the Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was the third significant piece of legislation that addressed discriminatory practices – Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Fair Housing.  

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. It was intended to address discriminatory practices AND reverse housing segregation advanced through the New Deal, commonly referred to as “redlining.”  

More recently, efforts have been made to expand the definition of “fair housing” to include disparities in housing needs and access to opportunity, truly integrating affordable housing in all communities, while also ensuring compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws. In this way, I’ve come to associate fair housing with affordable housing though I recognize that affordable doesn’t always mean fair.   

Over the next two months, you’ll be seeing a lot more regarding housing. We will be: 

  • Launching a Fair & Affordable Housing Page on the City Website with Frequently Asked Questions & Answers, and focusing our blog and social media on housing issues.  You can expect to learn more about how subsidies work, the investments the city makes each year toward preserving or producing new housing, including support for those experiencing homelessness 
  • Creating a map of approved, planned, and proposed land developments in the pipeline, which includes land use and number of housing units by project, including affordability  
  • Sharing an illustrated Public Process Approval Chart around Land Development to help the public understand the stages of development and when stakeholders can review and comment on development projects in the city 
  • Rolling out the City’s five-year consolidated plan, which will serve as a framework to guide housing and community development investments.  This plan will be released on March 26th for a 30 day public comment period and it will be presented to Council on April 5th.   
  • Releasing the findings of a housing affordability study commissioned last year, which is taking a deep dive into supply and demand of housing in the City.  Results of this study are anticipated in May;  
  • And most importantly launching a “Take Action Page” – where we’ll spell out advocacy and engagement efforts for anyone who shares our belief that Housing is a human right.  

In addition, I wanted to provide Council with a quick snapshot of where we stand right now re: production and preservation efforts.  

On the production side, Lancaster City is seeing a building boom with more than 1,500 units of housing in development – more than have been developed at any one point in recent history.  As well, because of public support and the efforts of this Administration and Council, more than 10% of the units in development will be affordable, many of which will reverse redline discriminatory practices through significant development in the Northwest.   

Regarding housing preservation — literally ensuring the longevity of our housing infrastructure – our property maintenance inspectors launched a property condition survey last December of every parcel in the city – all 18,656 of them.  Armed with an app specially developed by our Public Works GIS team, inspectors set out to view and evaluate each property. They looked at both the parcel condition (sheds, fences, trees) and the condition of the structure (gutters, chipping paint, broken windows).  Walking block-by-block, this special effort was diligently carried out over a 10-week period.  This work carried out by our team will help inform our inspection protocols moving forward alongside our lead abatement efforts.  

With only 1 in 4 people who qualify for housing support receives any assistance, we know this national housing crisis.  We see it every day and it is beyond frustrating. Local governments like Lancaster City have few options to provide new solutions without raising taxes on our residents, who are already the lowest income and most highly taxed residents in Lancaster County. For this reason, support has to come from outside the city, including County, State, and Federal support.  

Overall, governmental subsidies at the state and federal level have not kept up with demand, in fact, many have decreased, leaving fewer options and the need for more creative approaches and increased advocacy. 

I ask you to join me over the course of April – to elevate the issues of Fair and Affordable Housing with our community, and most importantly, raise our voices to our elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington DC as they consider the rules of the American Rescue Plan Act to allow us to utilize funds toward affordable housing. I ask you to join me in asking that Housing also be included in forthcoming infrastructure investments. We need to see an unprecedented investment in affordable housing from the Federal Government and State government – and when we do, we will be ready to put it to work here in Lancaster. 

Thank you.