The Phoenix

New home building reaches 20-year high


WEST CHESTER » A new report from the Chester County Planning Commission shows that more homes were built in the county in 2021 than in any year since 2001, and that the growth was largely driven by apartment constructi­on.

The report also said that despite soaring prices, more homes were sold than in any year since 2005.

“The numbers for units built and sold and the prices for which they were sold are staggering, yet not surprising,” said Chester County Commission­ers’ Chairwoman Marian Moskowitz. “People and jobs continue to move to our county because it is a special place to live and work. That means the private market continues to build, especially apartments in developed suburban growth centers like Exton, West Chester and along the Route 202 corridor, to meet the demand.

“The only damper on this otherwise positive report is that we are still not producing enough housing for those with modest incomes. This issue — strategies for attainable, affordable housing — is an even greater focus for us now.”

A total of 3,743 homes were built in 2021, with apartments accounting for 1,963 of that total. That figure represents more than

a threefold increase in the number of apartments built in the previous year. Sales of new and existing homes increased by more than 17% over 2020 figures.

The median home sale price continued to rise, reaching $420,000 in 2021. The 2021 median sales price was the highest, adjusting for inflation since the County began collecting housing data. Only 15% of homes sold in the county last year were considered “affordably priced” at under $250,000.

“While this report makes clear that demand to live in Chester County is driving both the apartment market and home sales, it also reflects the fact that our current housing stock does not offer a sufficient diversity of options,” said Chester County Commission­er Josh Maxwell. “We must encourage opportunit­ies for firsttime homebuyers and housing near public transporta­tion.”

The median sale price for detached units jumped by approximat­ely 16% to $475,000 in 2021, while the median sale price for townhomes and twins also increased significan­tly, rising by nearly 18% to $369,000.

“We know the pandemic changed many people’s minds on the style of home they wanted, and what they wanted was more space, especially when they had to, or chose to, work from home,” added Chester County Commission­er Michelle Kichline. “That helps explain the tremendous demand for traditiona­l single-family homes, and now we are seeing this dramatic rise in larger apartments with all the amenities. Although values are rising, we do have areas in the county where families can still find a moderately priced home.”

According to the report, the lower-cost home sales were largely in the Phoenixvil­le, East Goshen, Coatesvill­e, and Downingtow­n/ Exton areas. The highestpri­ced sales predominan­tly occurred in Tredyffrin, Easttown and Willistown. Tredyffrin Township had the widest range of home sale prices for the second consecutiv­e year.

Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary, whose department assembles the annual housing report, expects to see this hot trend of constructi­on and sales continue through 2022.

“We might begin to see activity slow down a bit in 2023, especially with the increased cost of constructi­on,” he said. “Developing more housing that would be attainable by lower-income households remains a priority for the County. The Planning Commission is looking at ideas with a clear imperative from Commission­ers Moskowitz, Maxwell and Kichline that we substantia­lly increase our supply in that category.”

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