Housing

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  • Protect and enhance the environment in which housing exists;
  • Support local, State and Federal actions which serve to improve the climate for housing;
  • Establish strong community clusters that can be efficiently served by a full range of public services without any undue fiscal burden;
  • Preserve open spaces, natural amenities and other environmentally sensitive land.

To accomplish these tasks, the housing plan process is composed of six distinct sections:

A. Demographic Highlights; This is a brief introduction and evaluation of the demographic trends and other socioeconomic factors which impact on both local government and the housing market.

B. Housing Mix Determinants; This features the current land use and zoning activities along with other aspects which set the stage for the remaining analysis.

C. Housing Indicators; This section sets forth the physical, economic and social characteristics of housing in the township, The analysis shows what types of units have been built, what their values are, how old the structures are and the size of families occupying the units.

D. Housing Quality Study; This part of the process completes the housing inventory analysis. It examines the indicators that may alter the existing housing stock and provides for the final determination of the Housing Need Analysis.

E. Housing Need Analysis; This analysis draws on the Montgomery County Housing Distribution Plan for information. It is somewhat modified by features unique to the township which are obtained from the 1977 Lower Merion Township Housing Assistance Plan.

F. Conclusion; This final section draws some conclusions from the statistical data and suggests some techniques to accomplish improvements to the housing stock.

A. DEMOGRAPHIC HIGHLIGHTS

1. Population Trends

a. Growth Rate

The population growth rate in Lower Merion Township continued to decline throughout the seventies. Figure D-l traces the change in population from 1940 to the year 2000. Although absolute growth is occurring, the percent change between 1960 and 1970 was only one-third of Montgomery County's rate of 20.7%.

Figure D-l

POPULATION GROWTH IN LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

 

YEAR
POPULATION
1940
39,566
1950
48,745
1960
59,420
1970
63,392
1980
66,749
1990
68,019
2000
68,133
Source: U.S. Census to 1970; D.V.R.P.C. Year 2000 Baseline Forecasts

 

Figure D-2

POPULATION GROWTH AND ESTIMATED GROWTH

 

YEAR TOWNSHIP OF
LOWER MERION
CHANGE FROM
PRECEDING DECADE
MONTGOMERY
COUNTY
CHANGE FROM
PRECEDING DECADE
   
#
%
 
#
%
1950
48,745
-
-
353,068
-
-
1960
59,420
10,675
21.9
516,682
163,614
46.5
1970
63,392
3,972
6.7
623,799
107,111
20.7
1980
66,749
3,357
5.3
704,663
80,864
13.0
1990
68,019
1,270
1.9
797,608
92,945
13.2
2000
68,133
114
.2
853,793
56,185
7.0
Source: U.S. Census to 1970; D.V.R.P.C.; Government Studies and Systems, A Report On The Feasibility Of a Housing Program For Low and Moderate Income Residents of Lower Merion Township,Montgomery County, Pa.,1977. (Modified by Consultant)

 

The slowdown in the township's growth rate is partially explained by the decline in the birth rate. The birth rate, as noted in Figure D-3, fell from 12.5 per thousand in 1960 to 8.9 per thousand for 1968. The 1968 figure is approximately one-half of the national average.

b. Age Distribution

Lower Merion Township, in comparison to Montgomery County, has a significantly older population. In the township 41.3% of the population is 45 years of age or older, whereas in Montgomery County, 31.8% of the population is 45 years of age or over. Ages, by range, for both the county and the township are indicated in Figure D-4.

c. School Population

In Lower Merion Township the number of school children is declining, as indicated in Figure D-5. There has been a continual, gradual decline in the number of students through the 13 grades of public school. The trend is likely to continue because of the lack of building activity in Lower Merion Township especially in the construction of single-family detached houses (which currently is the prime source of school children locally).

 

Figure D-3

ANNUAL NUMBER OF BIRTHS AND DEATHS
AND RATE PER THOUSAND FOR
LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP 1960 - 1969

 

BIRTHS
DEATHS
NATURAL INCREASE
OR DECREASE
YEAR
NO.
RATE
NO.
RATE
NO.
RATE
1960
744
12.5
620
10.4
124
2.1
1961
756
12.5
281
4.6
475
7.9
1962
688
11.2
463
7.5
225
3.7
1963
653
10.2
597
9.3
56
0.9
1964
723
11.5
637
10.2
86
1.3
1965
662
10.4
622
9.8
40
0.6
1966
636
9.8
644
9.9
- 8
-0.1
1967
633
9.7
647
9.9
- 14
-0.2
1968
594
8.9
705
10.5
-111
-1.6
1969
654
9.6
680
10.0
- 26
-.04
Source: U.S. Census, 1970.

 

Figure D-4

1970 AGE DISTRIBUTION

 

 
Township of Lower Merion
Montgomery County
Age Group
(Years)
Number of Persons
Percent of Population
Number of Persons
Percent of Population
Pre-school, 0-4
3,464
5.5
47,779
7.7
Primary school, 5-9
4,804
7.6
59,787
9.6
Preteen, 10-14
5,613
8.9
65,267
10.5
Teenage, 15-19
6,192
9.8
55,834
9.0
Young Adult, 20-24
4,377
6.9
40,768
6.5
Adult, 25-44
12,736
20.1
149,612
24.0
Mature Adult, 45-64
17,027
26.9
143,659
23.0
Senior Citizen, 65+
9,140
14.4
61,093
9.8
Total All Ages
63,353
100.0
623,799
100.0
Source: Government Studies & Systems, op .cit.

 

Figure D-5

ENROLLMENT OF STUDENTS IN LOWER MERION SCHOOL DISTRICT 1976

 

Grade
Number of
Students
Percent of
Total
 
Kindergarten
449
5.4

1

578
6.9

2

523
6.2

3

489
5.8

4

558
6.7

5

601
7.2

6

611
7.3

7

691
8.3

8

635
7.6

9

679
8.1

10

728
8.7

11

732
8.7

12

771
9.2
Special Education-Elementary
145
1.7
Special Education-Junior High
111
1.3
Special Education-Senior High
69
0.9
Total
8,370
100.0
Source: Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 1976 Government Studies & Systems, op. cit.

2. Socioeconomic Trends

a. Overview

Unique to Lower Merion Township is its proximity to the Philadelphia central business district and the newer suburban employment markets. This geographic position is reflected in the housing demand in several ways. First, the vacancy rate is 2.3%, well below the national average rate of 4%. Second, the price of housing has exceeded the cost of living trend. Somewhat shockingly, the selling price for a new house has increased 67% between 1970 and 1977 in the township while the cost of living rose 40%. Finally, the gross income necessary to pay rents or mortgages has risen from 25% to 31% of a family's monthly gross income.

b. Income Distribution

The 1970 median income in Lower Merion Township was reported to be $19,999, the highest in Montgomery County. The county 1970 median income was $12,749. Income ranges, for both the township and the county are presented in Figure D-6 and illustrated by census tract on Figure D-7.

 

Figure D-6

FAMILY INCOME FOR LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP
AND MONTGOMERY COUNTY 1970

 

INCOME
LOWER MERION
MONTGOMERY COUNTY
 
#
%
#
%
$ 0 - 4,999
924
6
12,377
8
5,000 - 7,999
1,300
8
19,234
12
8,000 - 9,999
1,000
6
19,463
12
10,000 - 14,999
2,884
18
48,940
31
15,000 - 24,999
3,886
24
39,421
25
25,000 - 49,999
4,171
26
15,444
10
50,000 - over
1,906
12
4,493
2
 
Total
16,071
100%
159,372
100%
 
 
Median Family Income 1970
    Lower Merion Township
$19,999
   
    Montgomery County
12,749
   
    Philadelphia SMSA
10,783
   
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1970

c. Occupations

Another indication of the township's social structure is the occupational breakdown of its residents. In Figure D-8, it is noted that the largest single category, 30%, consists of professional, technical, and kindred occupations' while managers and administrators comprise an additional 19%. This accounts for 49% of the occupations in the township.

d. Density and Household Size

Figure D-10 indicates that Lower Merion in 1970 had a population density per square mile that was twice as large as the county. However, the number of people per square mile is now increasing at a lower rate than the county. The number of people per household in Lower Merion also has been falling at a rate greater than the county.

 

Figure D-8

OCCUPATIONS 1970

 

 
Lower Merion
Montgomery County
 
#
%
#
%
Professional, Technical and kindred
7,516
30%
50,460
20%
Managers and Administrators
4,803
19
28,635
11
Sales workers
3,505
14
24,212
9
Clerical
4,147
17
46,385
18
Craftsmen, Foremen, etc,
1,276
5
32,138
13
Transport & Operatives
1,075
4
41,783
16
Laborers & Farm Workers
27
1
9,481
4
Service Workers
1,393
6
20,254
8
Private Household Workers
965
4
2,842
1
Total
25,107
100%
256,190
100%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1970

 

Figure D-9

POPULATION IN HOUSEHOLDS

 

 
1960
1970
 
JURISDICTION
HOUSEHOLD
POP.
% OF MUNICIPAL
POP.
HOUSEHOLD
POP.
% OF MUNICIPAL
POP.
% OF CHANGE

Lower Merion Twp.
56,377
94.9%
60,826
96.0%
8%
Montgomery County
498,295
97.0%
607,920
97.5%
22%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census 1960, 1970

 

Figure D-10

POPULATION DENSITY 1960 and 1970

 

JURISDICTION
SQ. MILES
1960
POP. DENSITY
1970
POP. DENSITY
% CHANGE

Montgomery County
482.4
1,070
1,292
21%
Lower Merion Twp.
23.34
2,546
2,716
6%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1960 and 1970

In 1960 the number of persons per household in Lower Merion was 3.20, which by 1970 had declined to 2.93 (-8%). During the same period the county had a shift from 3.40 persons per household to 3.20 persons per household (-6%).

The township's decrease was 2% greater than the county. Moreover, in 1960, every 3.4 persons added to the population required one additional housing unit. By 1970, the housing requirement shifted to the point where one housing unit was needed by every 3.2 persons. Therefore, each 1000 people added to the population required approximately 6½% more housing units than in 1960.

Figure D-ll

HOUSEHOLD SIZE 1960 AND 1970

 

Jurisdiction
1960 Persons
Per Household
1970 Persons
Per Household
%
Change

Montgomery County
3.40
3.20
-6%
Lower Merion
3.20
2.93
-8%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census 1960 and 1970.

B. HOUSING MIX

1. Land Use and Zoning

Lower Merion Township presently has 8,764 acres (56%) under residential development with 8,280 acres (53%) constructed with single family structures. Approximately 3,728 acres (24%) are used for various transportation, utilities or service-oriented activities. This leaves only 2,876 acres (19%) undeveloped. Most of this acreage is located in census tract 2048 (Gladwyne). This land is for the most part, unsewered and parts of it are environmentally sensitive to development.

The existing zoning classifications in Figure D-12 list seven districts that permit semi-detached and multi-family structures, and these districts constitute 10.6% of the total land in Lower Merion Township.

Figure D-12

SUMMARY OF ZONING REGULATIONS

 

Zoning Classification
Use
Density
(units/ acre)
Lot
Width (feet)
Bldg. Area(%)
Height
(feet)
RAA  
Single-family detached
0.48
90
15
35
RA  
Single-family detached
0.96
90
15
35
R-3  
Single-family detached
4.35
70
20
35
R-4  
Single-family detached
7.26
60
30
35
R-5 (A)
Single-family detached
8.71
50
35
35
  (B)
Other
Residential
8.71
60
30
35
  (C)
Townhouses
8.71
20
30
35
R-6 (A)
Single-family detached
8.71
50
40
35
  (B)
Single-family
semi-detached
14.52
30
40
35
  (C)
Two-family
detached
14.52
60
40
35
  (D)
Other
Residential
14.52
30
40
35
  (E)
Townhouses
14.52
20
40
35
R-6A (A1)
Single-family detached
8.71
50
40
35
  (A2)
Single-family
semi-detached
14.52
30
40
35
  (A3)
Two-family
detached
14.52
60
40
35
  (B)
Two-family
semi-detached
17.42
35
40
35
  (C)
Apartment houses
17.42
125
30
65
  (D)
Other
Residential
17.42
35
40
35
  (E)
Townhouses
17.42
20
30
35
R-7 (A1)
Single-family detached
8.71
50
40
35
  (A2)
Single- family
semi-detached
14.52
30
40
35
  (B)
Two-family
detached
17.42
50
40
35
  (C)
Two-family
detached
17.42
35
40
35
  (D)
Apartment
houses
17.42
125
30
65
  (E)
Other
Residential
8.71
60
30
35
  (F)
Townhouses
17.42
20
30
35
CO (A1)
Commercial
.87
175
40
120
  (A2)
Apartment
house
17.42
175
40
120
  (B)
Motel
21.78
175
40
120
CL  
Commercial
None
75
40
35
C-1 (A1)
Single-family detached
8.71
50
40
35
  (A2)
Single-family
semi-detached
14.52
30
40
35
  (B)
Two-family
detached
17.42
50
40
35
  (C)
Two-family
semi-detached
17.42
35
40
35
  (D)
Apartment
house
17.42
125
30
65
  (El)
Other
Residential
8.71
60
30
35
  (E2)
Motel
21.78
175
40
120
  (F)
Commercial-Residential
17.42
None
60
65
  (G)
Commercial
None
None
60
65
C-2 (A1)
Single-family detached
8.71
50
40
35
  (A2)
Single-family
semi-detached
14.52
30
40
35
  (B)
Two-family
detached
17.42
35
40
35
  (C)
Two-family
semi-detached
17.42
35
40
35
  (D)
Apartment
house
17.42
125
30
65
  (E)
Other
Residential
8.71
60
30
35
  (F)
Commercial-Residential
17.42
None
60
65
  (G)
Commercial
None
None
70
65
M  
Manufacturing and Industrial
None
None
70
65
PRD  
Residential
Accessory
1.25
None
15
35
Source: Government Studies and Systems, op. cit. (modified by Consultant)

2. Housing Inventory

a. Existing Housing Mix

The total housing stock available in Lower Merion Township, including both occupied and vacant units (all-year round units) for 1977 was 22,1011 (Figure D-13). From the years 1960 to 1977, the total housing stock increase of all-year round units was 3,937.

But between the years 1970 and 1977, only 842 (3.9%) occupied units were added to the total housing stock, as noted in Figure D-13.

The multi-family housing stock (two or more attached units) as shown in Figure D-14, increased by 2,359 units between the years 1965 and 1970. This raised the total multi-family housing stock for 1970 to 6,6972 or 31.5% of all dwelling units in the township.

One item of interest is that census tracts 2050, 2052, 2054, and 2055.01 contain 51% of all multi-family units in the township. Since 1970, 77% of all new construction has been devoted to multi-family housing.

Figure D-13

ALL YEAR AROUND UNITS IN LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

1960-1977

 

Year
No. of
Units
Absolute
Change
%
Change
Vacant
Units
Vacancy
Rate
 
1960
18,164
357
2%
1970
21,225
3061
14.4%
495
2.3
1977
22,101
876
3.9%
520
2.2
1960-1977
3937
21.6%

 

OCCUPIED UNITS IN LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

 

Year
No. of
Units
Absolute
Change
%
Change
 
1960
17,807
1970
20,739
2932
16.4%
1977
21,581
842
3.9%
1960-1977
3774
21.2%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1960 and 1970

 

Figure D-14

MULTI-FAMILY UNITS BY CENSUS TRACT

IN LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP

1970

 

Tract #
Duplex
Multi Family (3+)
% Of Total
 
 
2043
282
4.4
2044
39
420
6.6
2045
359
5.7
2046
6
17
.2
2047
89
593
9.4
2048
7
30
.4
2049
10
48
.7
2050
22
733
11.6
2051
48
466
7.4
2052
9
675
10.6
2053
69
222
3.4
2054
15
1152
18.2
2055.01
55
715
11.3
2055.02
44
.7
2055.03
37
535
8.5
Sub Total
406
6291
100.0%
Total
  6,697 units  
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1970

b. Vacancies

The vacancies rate in the township has been calculated by relating the number of households (which, by census definition, is equal to the number of occupied housing units) to the total number of vacant housing units. Figure D-15 shows that the vacancy rate in Lower Merion in 1974 was 2.3% (520 units). The county figure was 106%.

Figure D-15

VACANCY STATUS IN LOWER MERION

1970-1974

 

Year
Vacant
Rentals
Vacant
% Rentals
Vacancy
Rate
1960
357
2.0%
1970
495
151
30%
2.3%
1974
520
163
31%
2.3%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census, 1960 and 1970

c. Group Quarters

Another unique feature of the township is the number of group quarters provided by the colleges located in Lower Merion, Figures D-16, D-17 and D-18 present the relative position of the township in comparison to other county communities. Group quarters are inhabited by 4% of the township's population but this number appears to be declining.

Figure D-16

TEN MUNICIPALITIES WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF

PERSONS IN GROUP QUARTERS, 1970

 

Rank Municipality
Population
1 Norristown
3,121
2 LOWER MERION
2,566
3 Skippack
1,767
4 Springfield
1,357
5 Collegeville
911
6 Abington
768
7 Pottstown
676
8 Cheltenham
642
9 Upper Providence
471
10 Lower Gwynedd
442
Source: Montgomery County Planning Commission, Report On Housing, 1975.

Figure D-17

TEN MUNICIPALITIES WITH THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE

OF POPULATION IN GROUP QUARTERS, 1970

 

Rank Municipality
% of Population
1 Skippack
33.2
2 Collegeville
28.5
3 Pennsburg
11.9
4 Norristown
7.6
5 Upper Providence
7.6
6 Lower Gwynedd
6.9
7 Marlborough
6.3
8 Upper Frederick
5.4
9 LOWER MERION
4.0
10 Lower Providence
2.9
Source: Ibid.

Figure D-18

TEN MUNICIPALITIES WITH THE LARGEST DECREASE

IN GROUP QUARTERS POPULATION, 1970

 

Rank Municipality
Population
1 Norristown 2,265
2 Plymouth 645
3 Jenkintown 508
4 LOWER MERION 477
5 Conshohocken 302
6 Cheltenham 279
7 Skippack 241
8 Upper Dublin 136
9 Horsham 120
10 Lower Providence 46
Source: Ibid.

C. HOUSING INDICATORS

1. Housing Characteristics of Occupied Units

Characteristics of occupied housing units, by tenure, income range, household type, and age of the head of household for Lower Merion Township are presented in Figure D-19. The largest proportion of owner-occupied houses belongs to husband-wife families where the husband is from 45 to 64 years of age and the total family income is $25,000 or more.

The largest proportion of renter-occupied housing units shelter primarily individuals earning under $15,000 per year. The distribution of housing income, tenure, and age follows common economic patterns of earning power, stability, income, and community residential preferences.

Figure D-20 presents patterns of tenure in 1960 and 1970 for the township and Montgomery County. The statistics clearly demonstrate that the inflationary sales price of new housing has shifted the market demand toward renter-occupied units. In response to this housing type shift, the supply of renter units has increased and it now makes up one-third of the total housing stock in the township.

Figure D-19

OCCUPIED UNITS, 1970

 

Income
Ranges
Under 30 #      %
30 - 44 #      %
45 - 64 #      %
65 and Over
#      %
OTHER
FAMILY
#       %
PRIMARY
INDIVIDUAL
#       %
Under $5,000
5
2.5
40
1.3
82
1.5
165
9.1
250
18.8
549
37.6
$5,000- $9,999
68
33.5
268
9.0
340
6.0
355
19.5
365
27.5
362
24.8
$10,000-$14,999
52
25.6
598
20.2
753
13.3
243
13.4
267
20.1
189
12.9
$15,000-$24,999
61
30.0
111
26.0
1347
23.8
409
22.5
285
21.5
168
11.5
$25,000 or more
17
8.4
1289
43.5
3133
55.4
646
35.5
161
12.1
193
13.2
Total Owner Occupied Units
203
100.0
2966
100.0
5655
100.0
1818
100.0
1328
100.0
1461
100.0
Under $5,000
73
13.0
23
3.9
32
2.3
120
14.3
134
21.0
1153
35.2
$5,000- $9,999
213
37.9
122
20.8
142
10.2
194
23.2
203
31.7
1127
34.5
$10,000-$14,999
175
31.1
194
33.0
261
18.8
163
19.5
138
21.6
498
15.2
$15,000-$24,999
72
12.8
118
20.1
476
34.2
222
26.5
111
17.4
331
10.1
$25,000 or more
29
5.2
130
22.2
480
34.5
138
16.5
53
8.3
165
5.0
Total Renter Occupied Units
562
100.0
587
100.0
1391
100.0
837
100.0
639
100.0
3274
100.0
TOTAL UNITS
765
3553
7046
2665
1967
4735
Source: Government Studies & Systems, op. cit.

Figure D-20

1960 AND 1970 OWNER AND RENTER-OCCUPIED HOUSING TENURE

 

 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Census; 1960, 1970

2. Construction Activity

a. Single Family Detached Units

Based on the number of building permits issued in the township, the number of housing starts can be reasonably estimated, From 1965 to 1976 there were 1017 new single family housing starts as presented in Figure D-21.

This average comes to 73 new units per year but as the annual numbers show, construction is cyclical in nature, often displaying extreme fluctuations.

b. Multi-Family Dwelling Units

From 1965 to 1976, 1,292 apartment type units were granted permits. During the sixties, apartments and condominium construction averaged 125 new units per year. Given the age distribution of the population, it is expected that this trend will continue if available sites can be found. As with single family units, construction is cyclical in nature often displaying extreme fluctuations.