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DelVal Counties Offer Programs To Help Homeless People

Bucks County Controller Pamela Van Blunk joined state Sen. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) and other members of the Bagley Carlin and Mandio law firm volunteering at the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter in Bristol on the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

“It was humbling,” said Van Blunk, who worked with other volunteers to paint two conference rooms and two hallways. Volunteers played games with kids while others helped with food preparation.

Bucks has about 313 homeless people on any given day, according to the 2023 Point-in-Time Survey. And it offers numerous programs to help, including $150,000 earmarked for homeless shelters in 2024.

Candace Cabanas, a Republican candidate for the state House running in the Feb. 13 special election, said there are homeless encampments in the woods near her Falls Township home.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger announced a total of $6,331,068 in new Emergency Solutions Grant awards for municipalities and nonprofit organizations to help homeless individuals and families find housing. Of that, $108,000 is earmarked for Bucks County.

The Montgomery County towns of Lansdale, Norristown, and Pottstown have been in the news lately for homeless problems.

Aided by an additional $2 million that outgoing Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence added to the 2024 budget, Montgomery County has robust programs to aid the homeless. Yet the problem persists.

Kayleigh Silver, administrator for Montgomery County Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Housing and Community Development, said in 2023, the county had 329 homeless people for the one-day count.

“There’s been a 37 percent decrease from 2013,” Silver said. “So, the trend is going down.”

Silver believes the biggest cause of homelessness in the county is rising rents. The cost to rent a studio apartment in the Philadelphia metro area was $1,297 in December, according to

There are also “rising evictions and the loss of affordable housing due to Hurricane Ida (in 2021),” Silver said.

“We are seeing more and more people systematically being pushed into homelessness in any given year,” said Silver. “So, in 2022, for example, almost 2,500 people were entered into the homeless crisis response system. Meaning they experienced homelessness, they needed services, they needed shelter, they needed housing.”

Montgomery County and other Delaware Valley counties have systems of public/private partnerships to help homeless people.

“We do short-term and medium-term rental subsidies to help pay for the housing and then connect them to the job benefits and support they need in order to maintain that housing going forward,” said Silver.

Adrienne Marofsky, a spokesperson for Delaware County, said the county has about $5.5 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and $1.8 million from other sources for homeless programs. There are shelters in Brookhaven, Upper Darby, and Chester. As of the Point-in-Time count in January 2023, there were 360 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people in Delaware County.

“As a HUD recipient, we, like Montgomery County, are required to participate in the Point-In-Time count at the end of January,” said Marofsky.

Marofsky agreed that increased rental costs, coupled with lower wages, not enough affordable housing, and scarce supportive housing for people with mental health, drug, or alcohol “challenges,” are the main causes of homelessness there.

At a recent Delaware County Housing Coalition update, Jordan Casey of The Foundation for Delaware County said the county is home to 177,000 renters, meaning roughly one in three residents are renters. Despite the aging housing stock in the county, rental prices in the county are increasing and are higher than in other counties in the state. Casey noted a two-bedroom apartment in Delaware County now averages $1,470 per month, meaning a Delaware County resident would need to earn $58,800 to afford it at fair market prices.

Dolores Colligan, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development, and Rob Henry, administrator for the Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness, spoke with DVJournal.

The county will spend about $3.5 million on the homeless problem this year.

Last year, there were 436 homeless people in Chester County “on any given night,” said Henry. That includes 29 living outside. And 1,000 to 1,200 become “unhoused” over a year. Chester County also performs a one-night homeless count.

There is “a mixture” of ages among the homeless population, with about a quarter of them children, he said.

Coatesville is the Chester County town with the largest number of homeless people, he said.

A county program earmarked $500,000 to repair homes in Coatesville so that people can continue to live in them.

And “the lack of affordable housing,” is the main reason for homelessness, Henry said. There are 9,645 low-income housing units, 5,125 affordable housing units, and a shortage of 4,5020 units, said Henry.

In 2022, the Chester County Commissioners pledged a commitment to HUD’s “House America” initiative, with a goal of adding 1,000 affordable units in the county over 10 years.

Most of the funding comes from the federal government. The county also works with nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity to meet the need.

In November, Chester County received a Community Development Award of Excellence for its efforts to end homelessness.

“We want to ensure that everyone who lives in Chester County has housing options available to do so. But that means we must come up with a variety of ways to make this happen. By establishing the Affordable Housing Developer Collaborative, we have been able to bring together partners that can, from the outset, talk through land use, zoning, and public transportation regulations, as well as house purchase and rental needs, to move forward with affordable housing options,” Colligan said at that time.

While Philadelphia has a program to find and bring homeless people indoors during Code Blue days, the surrounding Delaware Valley counties do not, Colligan noted.

In addition to trying to help people once they become homeless, Chester County tries to prevent them from losing housing. “Repairing properties is one way to keep people in their homes,” said Colligan.

The Chester County 2024 budget included $3.3 million for various programs to help the homeless. These programs include street outreach, housing support, and case management, and programs for transitional housing. Various nonprofit partners received county money to address the problems, as well.

Chester County officials likewise see the lack of affordable housing as the main cause of homelessness.

“According to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s (PHFA) 2023 Comprehensive Housing Study, Chester County has 9,645 low-income households and only 5,125 affordable units for these households, which means there is a shortage of 4,520 affordable units for these families. Chester County, the Department of Community Development, and the Partnership to End Homelessness are working on solutions to meet the need for affordable housing. One hundred eleven new units of affordable housing have been created since 2022, with another 205 under development, and aspires to create 1,000 new units in the next 10 years,” officials said.

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Location Remains Key Factor in Hot DelVal Housing Market

Is now a good time to buy or sell a home? That depends on who you ask. But what is certain is if you’re in the market for a new home you’re likely to be paying significantly more it than would have been the case a year ago.

In Pennsylvania, the price of homes is 8.3 percent higher this year than last year, according to a formula used in the industry. At the same time, the number of homes sold fell 5.8 percent and the number of homes on the market dropped 14.2 percent using the same year-over-year formula.

Bob Wexler of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Eastern Pennsylvania notes prices have been on the rise throughout the Philadelphia area.

“Home values in Philly are up 14.9 percent from last year,” he said. “The story is more interesting in the suburbs though. Homes in the suburbs are selling faster than ever, about twice as fast compared to 2020 and prices are higher.”

In Bucks County, prices were up 17.8 percent over last year. In Chester County, the increase was 14.8 percent. In Delaware County prices rose 18.4 percent compared to a year ago while in Montgomery County the figure was 18.2 percent.

In some municipalities, however, the increase in the cost of a home was even more dramatic. In Schwenksville, the average home sold for $472,500, 45.4 percent more than at this time last year, using the year-over-year formula. But the 21 homes sold in that community were in demand; the median number of days they were on the market was five.

In Royersford, 45 homes sold in September for a median price of $315,000, an increase of 7.1 percent; after being on the market for six days, making it one of the most competitive communities in the state in terms of housing availability according to

Fannie Mae recently surveyed approximately 1,000 individuals by telephone to get their thoughts on the state of the housing market. Fannie Mae uses responses from its National Housing Survey® (NHS) to create its Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), which measures consumer satisfaction and concerns about the housing market.

The index measures, among other things, the percentage of consumers who think now is a good or bad time to buy or sell a home as well as their concerns and expectations re: home prices and mortgage rates.

The latest numbers, which reflect conditions in September, show that 66 percent of the respondents believe that now is a bad time to purchase a home. That’s a three percent increase from August. Just 28 percent of the respondents indicated they feel that now is a good time to buy.

Meanwhile, the number of respondents who indicated that now is a good time to sell a home increased from 73 to 74 percent, while just 19 percent of respondents felt the time is not right to sell.  When it comes to home prices, 37 percent of the respondents felt that the housing process will continue to rise in the next 12 months while 24 percent believe they will go down; 33 percent believe they will stay the same.

When the issue is mortgage rates, 8 percent of respondents felt they will go down over the next 12 months while 51 percent expect rates to rise.

Doug Duncan is Fannie Mae’s senior vice president and chief economist.

“Consumers feel it’s a bad time to buy a home,” he said, “but a good time to sell. And they continue to cite high home prices as the primary reason. Across all consumer segments, renters and younger consumers were slightly more likely to indicate it’s a bad time to buy, perhaps a reflection of their generally lower incomes and their observation that the availability of affordable homes is lacking. We’re also seeing a softening in consumers’ expectations that home prices will continue to increase. However, in our view, other housing market fundamentals remain supportive of further home price appreciation, including low levels of inventory and low interest rates.”

Wexler says a lack of inventory impacted the housing market for much of this year.

“But (the situation) has been improving in last few months,” he said.  “It’s been the main force behind higher home prices.”

Wexler notes the housing market is a seller’s market at present.

“It’s definitely a seller’s market with supply so low and homes selling fast due to high competition among buyers,” he said.

“Millennials and Generation Z members are influencing the housing market as well, as some older millennials may be ready to shift to a larger house, freeing up their starter homes for younger millennials and the older Generation Z members who want to purchase their first home.”

Wexler stresses the importance of potential home buyers being well informed.

“Talk to a good local lender or mortgage broker,” he said, “to be prequalified and understand what you can afford.”