Can street houses help solve Bethlehem’s affordable housing problem? – Morning call

Two Bethlehem architects believe the construction of more small housing units on the south side of Bethlehem could help alleviate the problem of affordable housing in the city.

Wes Hyatt, an architect and visiting associate professor at Lehigh, and business partner Robert Hon unveiled at a research exhibition on Friday zoning change plans that will allow developers to build smaller high-density apartment buildings in the city.

Hyatt and Hon proposed to build in the city more “auxiliary housing”, which are small houses built on land already occupied by the main place of residence. The construction of these small blocks would help meet the growing demand for housing in Bethlehem without demolishing existing structures and towering over residential neighborhoods, Hyatt said.

They specifically suggested “oil houses,” which are units that face the alleys rather than the streets, because such houses are already common in Bethlehem. They view these homes as an alternative to the high-rise buildings offered in South Bethlehem, which were sometimes unpopular with residents.

“Based on the response to these multi-storey projects from NGOs, history councils and everything else, there should be a kind of addition to high-rise buildings, low-rise solutions, a distributed density model,” Hyatt said.

More than 50% of South Bethlehem residents burn housing, which means they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. And in all of Bethlehem, only 3.5% of rental space is vacant, reflecting high demand for housing in the city. According to Hyatt, building more diverse housing can alleviate the problem.

The houses in the alleys can vary in size, from a studio of 400 square feet to a two-bedroom apartment of 1,000 square feet.

To build houses in Bethlehem, the city would need to adopt an amendment to the zoning. If the city council approves the changes, property owners in Bethlehem can build blocks on their property, or developers can build them on vacant lots or other available land.

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Several cities have undergone similar zoning changes, including Los Angeles and Maplewood, New Jersey.

This is an idea that has already been supported by city council members.

“I grew up on the south side,” said board member Vandal Enix. “There were two oil houses on Polk Street, so I’m familiar with that concept. I think it’s great. “

Board members Kira Wilhelm and Paige Van Wirth also backed the proposal in a press release.

Brooke Mittman, owner of Nehemiah Development Group from Eastan, is so pleased with the proposal that she wants to help make it to Bethlehem. Nehemiah Development is working on the construction of small housing to meet the demand for housing in the Lihai Valley.

“I’m very encouraged because I think a lot of people are coming out of hiding, and we feel like it’s a time when we can actually work together and make decisions,” Mitman said.

Lindsey Weber, a reporter for the morning call, can be reached at 610-820-6681 and

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