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Chapter News: March

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

Recent protests and advocacy, including the Black Lives Matter movement, have brought equity and social justice to the forefront of planning. Although planners have always been expected to meet the needs of all people and to be especially sensitive to the needs of our most vulnerable citizens, doing so has not always been straightforward. This month, to help planners address these challenges, we highlight an APA publication about working with diverse communities and efforts in two counties to encourage more affordable housing. Enjoy!


Multi-Local Government Aggregation Programs: A Tool for Implementation

Multi-municipal aggregation programs can be incredibly valuable to assist local governments with implementation of technical and/or high upfront cost projects. Aggregation programs provide lower cost and turnkey services to local governments by leveraging the purchasing and decision making power of participants. Further, these programs remove several key technical, procurement, and decision-making challenges that local governments face by providing a centralized procurement/contracting process and the resources to effectively engage utilities, address legal considerations, access funding or financing, on-board trusted consultants, and navigating technical decision-making in a timely manner…

CM credit is pending approval. Deadline to register is April 5, 2022

If you’re interested in sponsoring a Webinar Wednesday session or have a session for Webinar Wednesday, please contact us. Send your request to info@planningpa.org.


Penn State Extension: NRCS and USDA RD: Funders That Planners, Municipal Officials, and Other Community Leaders Should Know Well

How community planners and other local leaders can utilize the agencies of the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) — Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resource & Conservation Service (NRCS) & United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) — for community plan creation and implementation is the focus of this session. These agencies can be especially relevant when agriculture is identified as a municipal priority for preservation or for future development in a community. This session will, however, also present how these agencies can assist community development in both agricultural and non-agricultural areas. This webinar is April 20. More information.


Mid-Atlantic Collaboration: Planning for Clean Water Webinar Series

The Mid-Atlantic Planning Collaboration has announced a webinar series exploring the vital connections and partnerships between planners and the health of our water resources and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Webinars will be held the third Thursday of each month starting at 12:00 p.m. Save the following dates: April 21, May 19, and June 16


Annual Awards

The PA Chapter of APA is pleased to invite nominations for the 2022 PA Chapter of APA Planning Awards, to be presented at the Annual Conference, October 2-4, 2022, in Lancaster. It is the opportunity to showcase distinguished individuals and successful projects – the best and brightest in Pennsylvania planning!

Nominations are encouraged for: Compelling Plans, Innovative Projects, Programs, and Practices and Inspiring leaders. Nominations are due by June 10! More information


Opportunities for Giving

Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.


Planner’s Bookshelf: Planning With Diverse Communities

From the American Planning Association

The United States will become a “majority-minority” country by the mid-2040s, facing planners with both opportunities and challenges. Demographic changes are increasing the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of cities and towns across the country — but historical patterns of segregation and racial discrimination have left many communities of color disadvantaged and underserved, while immigrants face uncertainty in today’s political climate.

Planning With Diverse Communities offers the information and tools planners need to engage people of color in planning processes and improve quality of life for all in ethnically and racially diverse communities. The authors explore the country’s changing demographics, review the social and economic inequities facing many communities of color, and describe the resulting challenges confronting planners. Chapters focus on frameworks and approaches to better engage people of color, including immigrants, in planning processes, and on tools and strategies to improve economic opportunity, transportation access, housing options, health and safety, and placemaking in diverse communities.

The responsibility of planners to serve diverse publics and build better, more inclusive communities is more important than ever before. This PAS Report will help planners better address the social, cultural, and economic needs of diverse communities to reap the potential benefits of growing diversity and create more equitable communities for everyone.

Members of APA can access PAS Report 593 at no cost here. The report is also available for purchase.


Tackling the Affordable Housing Problem

National news is now full of stories about the affordable housing crisis, which the pandemic has made significantly worse. This is not a new trend, but it is currently receiving attention at unprecedented levels. This higher level of media exposure is giving planners an opportunity to raise the issue with their constituents and, this time, to have a more receptive audience. For most planners, the key issue is zoning and how to make it more inclusionary.

One problem is what to call affordable housing, since the term has acquired an undeservedly negative connotation.  Some call it workforce housing, although that generally means housing affordable to those earning between 80% to 120% of area median household income. Others use the term accessible housing or affordably-priced housing. Still others take a more data-driven approach, noting that any housing that uses more than 30% of a household’s income is problematic and makes the residents housing cost burdened. Whatever definition is used, housing affordability disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society – the elderly, the disabled, minorities, and the poor.

With the highest housing prices in the state, the suburban counties around Philadelphia are at the forefront of the issue. Montgomery County has tackled housing with its Homes for All initiative, which analyzed housing needs, identified barriers to the creation of affordable housing, and recommended best practices to increase housing affordability for all residents, regardless of income, geography, or background. The report that came out of this initiative can be found online here.

In Chester County, preliminary data shows that the 2021 median housing sales value was $420,000, an incredibly high median and a 12% increase from 2020. Chester County has been addressing its housing needs through a housing choices committee and its A+ Homes initiative. A+ Homes are attractive, affordably-priced, accessible, aging-friendly, and adaptable. So far, the county has produced guides on housing cost issues and housing for an aging population. These materials can be found online here.

Clearly, much more needs to be done to address the housing crisis, which is affecting communities across the Commonwealth. Montgomery and Chester Counties provide useful information to help in these efforts.