Study shows demand for market-rate housing in downtown York City


If a recent study is correct, there are more people who want to rent market-rate apartments in the York metro area than there are apartments to house them.

Over the next three years, demand will swell for 103 new rental units — beyond those already planned — in an area that includes all of York City, North York Borough, West York Borough, Spring Garden Township and parts of West Manchester Township.

Real Property Research Group prepared the study for Downtown Inc, a nonprofit that promotes York City's central business core.

The research group also found a low vacancy rate among existing rental complexes, which supports the overall conclusion of more demand.

The study suggests the market would support a range of price points.

In particular, the Central Business District — a technical name for downtown York — is ripe for more residential development with its proximity to restaurants and shopping and its proximity to some of York County's largest employers, according to the study.

Downtown York could support "several additional small to moderate size rental communities over the next few years," the study concludes.

Six projects are already in the works — 48 units at 1 W. Market St., a project of Yohn Property Management; 11 units at 1320 W. Market St., a project of Distinct Property Management; 20 units at the Keystone Colorworks building, a project of Distinct Property Management; 45 units at several buildings on West Market Street, a project of Royal Square Development; and 74 units spread over three properties, a project of DBRD LLC.

The Pullman building at 238 N. George St., with its 22 units, is factored in to that last project.

That's where Connie Marshall has lived for seven years, and where she would like to stay.

But forces beyond Marshall's control, including the demand for market-rate housing downtown, could force her and her neighbors out of their homes.

Controversy: In May, the city's Redevelopment Authority approved the $238,000 sale of the Pullman building to Derek Dilks, president and CEO of DBRD LLC.

That's triggered a ticking clock for Pullman residents who won't be able to afford the market rate — between $750 and $1,000 per month — that Dilks has said he'll charge after some renovations to the building.

The RDA took ownership of the building in 2012 after the previous owner defaulted on repaying a $475,000 loan from the city that funded the transformation of the former automobile company into affordable housing for seniors and low-income people.

Tenants have been paying rent to the city since the RDA took over.

But the arrangement has been controversial. Early on, tenants publicly criticized the city's plan — or lack of a plan — for the building, and other people questioned the wisdom of a municipality entering the rental business.

"They've acted throughout as if we didn't count," Marshall said recently. "The most vulnerable people are going to pay for the city's mistake."

Marshall is one of the few Pullman tenants who does not depend on Section 8 vouchers to pay her rent. But, for a one-bedroom apartment, she did qualify for the building's $493 monthly rent as a person of limited resources.

She's a retired social worker living on a small pension and Social Security.

With those resources — and friends who have offered her a place to stay — Marshall said she knows she's better off than most of her fellow Pullman Apartments tenants.

But she'd like to stay in the neighborhood, where she feels safe. Marshall said she's frustrated that she and about 15 other tenants are being displaced to make room for people who can pay more to live there.

In fact, she thinks local developers should see the Pullman's wiser-with-age residents as a stabilizing benefit to the area.

"We're pretty harmless," she said.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.