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United Way of Lancaster County


Bridging the affordable housing gap: A Q&A with HDC’s Dana Hanchin (video)

Dana Hanchin (Source: Provided | OUL)

HDC MidAtlantic envisions a world where a safe, welcoming, affordable place to call home is open to everyone.

But that takes time, dedication and an understanding of the market, says Dana Hanchin, the nonprofit’s president and CEO.

Founded in 1971 and headquartered in downtown Lancaster, HDC MidAtlantic operates in Lancaster County and other communities in central and eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. In all, it manages 72 affordable developments, serving about 5,000 residents.

Under the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development definition, housing is considered “affordable” when it costs no more than 30% of a household’s income.

“So, it is important to think about the income side of things, the disconnect between what people are earning and what the marketplace is providing,” Hanchin said. “That is the gap. So, somebody needs to step in the middle and figure out, how do we bridge that gap.”

The process of providing affordable housing begins with finding buildable land, then obtaining the necessary zoning and land development approvals, finding the resources to build the structure and rallying the community and political leaders to support the project.

It is a lengthy process, and demand for available units outstrips supply. Subsidies are needed because affordable developments typically cost more to build and operate than the income they generate.

HDC MidAtlantic currently has 3,400 applicants for its housing. Waiting lists are closed at about half of its sites, and wait times at the others average three to five years.

A rendering of The Apartments at College Avenue. (Source: HDC MidAtlantic | Tippetts Weaver Architects)

In September, the organization broke ground for a 49-unit affordable housing development in Allentown for ages 55+. Later this year, it hopes to break ground for The Apartments at College Avenue in Lancaster, a five-story building with 64 affordable apartments. It is the first of several projects HDC MidAtlantic is planning on and around the former St Joseph Hospital campus.

When asked about what is next, Hanchin said “The perfect future for HDC is to work our way out of this business.”