The first thing to note about these new “affordable” apartments planned for Southside Bethlehem is that they look horrible:
Where are the active ground-floor uses, people? They’re creating a blank wall facing the sidewalk in a neighborhood they want to be more walkable. This is working against walkability. Lynn Olanoff reports Andrew Twiggar saw this problem and voted for it anyway:
Planning commission members today said they largely liked the plans for the East Fifth Street apartments, though member Andrew Twiggar said he wished the complex’s entrances were on East Fifth Street instead of an interior courtyard. The entrances of existing homes on East Fifth Street all face the street, and Twiggar said he thought the apartments should model their style.
“There’s a feeling we’re creating a wall,” he said.
Though Twiggar voiced objections, he decided not to require any architectural changes as part of the commission’s approval. Housing Development Corp. architect Bruce Weinsteiger said the company may be able to make some minor design alterations but that they want to keep the entrances off the street for both layout and safety.
The other problem with this is the idea of affordable *apartments* rather than affordable *people*. Bethlehem’s apartment rents have been going up on Southside because there aren’t as many apartments as people want. The area has been getting more amenities that people like, but there’s been very little new apartment construction.
You can make apartments more affordable by building more total apartments. They don’t have to be specially designated “affordable apartments” there just need to be more plentiful apartments in general. The affordability definition can’t be in contrast with market rents. The market rents need to be affordable. They should be one and the same. If people can’t afford the rents, then you need to find a way to bring the market rents down citywide, and also get the highest-need people some more money to pay their rent with.