Monday, May 26, 2008


Large lots, large houses.

For nearly a decade, tax-weary people from New Jersey and New York poured into the Lehigh Valley in search of a bigger home on a bigger lot, and developers couldn't build so-called McMansions fast enough to meet demand. But as a credit crisis sweeps the nation, forcing a record number of homeowners into foreclosure, home building -- especially construction of large homes -- in the Lehigh Valley has slowed to a crawl.

A housing downturn that has made credit more difficult to get, combined with rising energy costs, is pushing the market away from the McMansions built in the Valley the past decade, and toward a more affordable version of the American Dream.

That may give Lehigh Valley Planning Commission members the opening they have been looking for to shift future development toward smaller, more affordable homes that chew up less open space.


Though it will take at least a year to craft, the model probably will include cottage housing, clustered housing that preserves green space, zoning that encourages businesses and homes to occupy the same neighborhoods and incentives to developers to preserve open space.


''Don't blame us, we're just building what the current zoning laws allow,'' said Chuck Hamilton, executive officer of the Lehigh Valley Builders Association. ''If a township requires 1-acre lots, no one wants to put a small house on that. If these planners allow smaller lots, we'll be happy to build smaller homes, if people want them.''