alley houses
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alley houses (by Tony [NJ]) May 11, 2024 7:13 AM
       alley houses (by NE [PA]) May 11, 2024 7:18 AM
       alley houses (by zero [IN]) May 11, 2024 10:08 AM
       alley houses (by Oregon Woodsmoke [ID]) May 11, 2024 11:08 AM
       alley houses (by WMH [NC]) May 11, 2024 11:37 AM
       alley houses (by zero [IN]) May 11, 2024 3:15 PM
       alley houses (by 6x6 [TN]) May 11, 2024 8:22 PM
       alley houses (by 6x6 [TN]) May 11, 2024 8:23 PM
       alley houses (by Allym [NJ]) May 12, 2024 10:16 AM
       alley houses (by MikeA [TX]) May 12, 2024 6:32 PM
       alley houses (by Deanna [TX]) May 12, 2024 10:54 PM
       alley houses (by WMH [NC]) May 14, 2024 10:05 AM

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alley houses (by Tony [NJ]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 7:13 AM

Bethlehem (PA) set to build ‘alley houses’

Partnership to help alleviate affordable housing crisis

By Lindsay Weber The Morning Call

The first new Bethlehem “alley house” is under way, part of a million-dollar partnership between the city of Bethlehem, Lehigh University and local nonprofits to help alleviate the growing affordable housing crisis.

Construction on the very first alley house could begin as soon as this summer.

At a meeting Thursday, officials gathered feedback from about a dozen local residents on the project. Here are answers about the proposal:

What’s an alley house? Why does Bethlehem want to build them?

“Alley houses,” or “accessory dwelling units,” are a type of housing built upon or attached to an existing property. These homes often face an alley, rather than a main thoroughfare, hence the name.

Bethlehem city officials identified building more alley houses as a possible strategy to combat the city’s affordable housing crisis. Average rents in Bethlehem have skyrocketed from $1,200 in 2019 to $1,800 in 2022 for a one-bedroom apartment, and the city’s housing units have a vacancy rate of only 2%.

Lehigh University, which is handling the alley house design and city approval process, has received two grants that total over $1 million from the federal government to begin the planning and construction of these homes.

Several alley houses already exist throughout Bethlehem, but their construction predates the city’s zoning code, which has made them illegal to build without a special zoning variance.

The city is targeting West Bethlehem for the alley house program, because several neighborhoods are built alongside alleys with ample space to build these homes.

How will the program work?

A participating couple have received a zoning variance for a “pilot” alley house to be constructed on their property near the intersection of Broad Street and 15th Avenue. The homeowners who volunteered their property will receive a cut of the rent once construction is complete, according to city officials.

Rent on the alley house will be designated “affordable,” meaning it will cost no more than 30% of the renter’s total income, and a prospective tenant could qualify if they make less than 80% of the area median income.

“We will be looking for someone that probably already lives in West Bethlehem, maybe in the same neighborhood, has kids in a local school and who is really struggling to stay in that home because they might be paying $1,800 in rent,” said Anna Smith, director of Community Action Bethlehem, which is helping to oversee the project.

The alley house project is a partnership between the city, Lehigh University, and two nonprofits, Community Action Lehigh Valley and New Bethany.

Community Action, which is handling construction, is looking to begin building the Broad Street alley house this summer, and if the “pilot” is successful, it could construct more in West Bethlehem. The grant provides enough funding for three to four new alley houses.

The city also is considering an amendment to the zoning code that would allow alley houses to be built “by right” in some areas, meaning a special variance would no longer be needed. If the city approved such a zoning change, which would likely take several years to take effect, around 15 to 30 new alley houses could be built throughout the city in five years.

What do neighbors think?

Bill Scheirer, a West Bethlehem resident, said he thought that alley houses could cause “conflicts” between neighbors. He suggested the city allow direct neighbors to “vote” on whether or not they would like to see a new alley house built in their neighborhood.

“There’s going to be cases where someone says, ‘I want to put up an alley house,’ but neighbors say, ‘We don’t want to lose that much space,'” Scheirer said.

Mary Toulouse, another West Bethlehem neighbor, said she thought city officials were taking a thoughtful, measured approach to building alley housing.

“It’s important as we are increasing density that people live in dignity, not tenements,” Toulouse said. “And I think that is what they are trying to do.”

Reporter Lindsay Weber can be reached at

alley houses (by NE [PA]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 7:18 AM

Ya but if you wanted to bust up a small house or garage to make an efficiency apartment that’s “affordable”, forget it.

alley houses (by zero [IN]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 10:08 AM

Let's get gov involved in what will be right or wrong for the community yet again.

It was illegal before but now it will be fine?

Why not just build a story on top of all existing houses? Then you have a nearly unlimited amount of space to clog. --107.147.xx.xx

alley houses (by Oregon Woodsmoke [ID]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 11:08 AM

[[[[[....... already lives in West Bethlehem, maybe in the same neighborhood, has kids in a local school and who is really struggling to stay in that home because they might be paying $1,800 in rent,”......]]]]

So why are the taxpayers paying to build housing for people who already have a house and can already pay the rent, even if it is a it uncomfortable?

[[.......grants that total over $1 million from the federal government.......]]]]]

And that is enough to build three or four little guest house size buildings on land that the city isn't paying anything for, and you know they won't be charging themselves building permits or systems development fees, so that is just the actual building.

alley houses (by WMH [NC]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 11:37 AM

Starting on an ADU on which we've had a permit for years but no time. Finally ready. Had the (new) inspector out for the required courtesy inspection before building. All is well EXCEPT he wants us to dig up the concrete floor and pour a new 24-inch deep x 6-inch wide footer around the exterior.

Minimum footer in NC is 12 inches, 24 is for for elevated decks, not sure why this tiny garage needs a deeper footer than a McMansion. So we asked if we had an engineer give us a plan would that work? He said yes (luckily, because we have an engineer.) So Engineer is working on an alternative plan.

Now we've done multiple, permitted ADUs, turning existing buildings into cottages. No one has ever mentioned a footer.

I guess New Guy needs to put his stamp on things somehow.

alley houses (by zero [IN]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 3:15 PM

Sounds like the new officer one small town just hired. He has issued more fines in a couple months than the rest have all year combined.

Two of my tenants, who work delivering papers so late nights, have been pulled over. Reasons like no turn signal or erratic driving.

Think he is either bored or trying to make a name for himself with the town council. --107.147.xx.xx

alley houses (by 6x6 [TN]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 8:22 PM

So, they asked only 12 people? That homeowner may be sorry. They are inviting in the government and giving them control while only receiving a small portion of the rent. Also, it would appear that the government intends to place a tenant who is already struggling and yet they also want them to have kids. Does that mean they will be putting someone in there that has an eviction? I see PE is a swing state.

alley houses (by 6x6 [TN]) Posted on: May 11, 2024 8:23 PM


alley houses (by Allym [NJ]) Posted on: May 12, 2024 10:16 AM

It's a dumb idea which will create ghetto conditions. Bethlehem has plenty of farmland around it. Build something out there and a bus route. Asking for fights and murders. Some newly minted city planner who barely graduated, plus a "favored" group builder and someone's relative in the government plus Dems looking for votes.

alley houses (by MikeA [TX]) Posted on: May 12, 2024 6:32 PM

And if you tore down 6 of those houses on large lots and put in an apartment complex you would create more homes than if you put up ADU's in every house in a whole neighborhood.

alley houses (by Deanna [TX]) Posted on: May 12, 2024 10:54 PM

I have an alley house behind my duplex. When my duplex went live, I put three mailboxes on the street and labeled them A, B, and C. The post office threw a fit, because even though the alley house had been built during WWII, they didn't know what to call it. When the carriers had a route on foot, it didn't matter, because they just delivered to the mailboxes by the front door, wherever the door was. But once they shifted over to only allowing mail to be delivered to the street-boxes back in 2011ish, in the hopes that the carriers wouldn't have to exit their vehicles after all the grandfathered porch delivery finally died out, it became a problem. The short-term solution was for residents of the alley house to just get mail sent elsewhere, either to a relative or to a PO Box.

But even though the USPS was the one with fits, I already knew from previous conversations about other un-addressed parcels that they weren't the entity who assigns addresses. Around here, 911 is the entity that assigns addresses. But 911 doesn't know how to address something that doesn't have frontage on a named street, because they rely on where the driveway is. (In my previous town, addresses were assigned based on the location of the water meter, but here, it's about the driveway. YMMV.) And this house had no street frontage and no driveway.

Fortunately, even though Regional wasn't comfortable in naming my alley house "(Number-C) (Street)", I knew the girl who was in the local office. Her ability to do exactly that job--- assign addresses--- had been rescinded by the previous judge. But she was able to be my advocate in talking to Regional, to convince them that "(Number-C) (Street)" was the traditional way to refer to that house, and it made the most sense, so let's do that.

Even with those personal connections, it took a few months, multiple visits, and multiple outreaches to Regional before we were finally given the greenlight, that yes, we could call it what we wanted to call it.

It will take about 8 months and about $60k to get that alley house on its feet, when I finally get around to its renovation. It's currently a 4/1, but needs love with all its major systems. But at least, when I finally give it its turn, that's one less battle I'll have to fight.

alley houses (by WMH [NC]) Posted on: May 14, 2024 10:05 AM

We gave up on addresses at some ADUs. The COUNTY assigned an address but the local postmistress won't deliver the mail unless it goes into the same box as the main house. So we provide a 'shared' mailbox. Most mail these days is junk mail anyway, and Amazon, UPS and Fed Ex deliver to the address using the description on the second line ("Back of house, second building") or whatever.

Well Fed Ex doesn't, their deliveries are always a treasure hunt "package package where did they put the package?" Even on a "real" address.

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