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  5. System 1 – Strengthening Neighborhoods & Housing (SNH)

System 1 – Strengthening Neighborhoods & Housing (SNH)

Vision Statement 

Life in Lancaster City is organized around neighborhoods. Neighborhoods foster our sense of belonging and create our collective identity. All of Lancaster’s residents deserve the chance to succeed and thrive—not in spite of their surroundings, but because of them. We aim to create stable, supportive, and equitable neighborhoods across Lancaster City where all residents have access to social capital, safe housing, green spaces, economic opportunity, and essential public services. 


Lancaster City is rich in history and culture. This land has been inhabited by Native Americans, European settlers, and immigrants and refugees from across the globe. Its architecture and community character are a source of local pride, national recognition, and even international interest. The City’s intentional efforts to protect its unique historic and cultural character have attracted tourism and development. Yet these efforts are occasionally perceived as being at odds with proposed housing and economic development projects. 

Roughly 52 percent of Lancaster’s housing units and many of its commercial and industrial buildings pre-date World War II. Countywide, only 20 percent of the housing stock is that old and nationally, the figure is just 12 percent. Historic buildings are a tremendous asset, but the City’s aging building stock and infrastructure require continual reinvestment and adjustment to meet modern standards. Older buildings are more likely to contain hazards such as lead paint and pipes, faulty wiring, or structural damage which can impact the health, safety, and quality of life for residents and businesses. Preservation programs must support adaptive reuse, remediation of hazards, and reinvestment so that all neighborhoods can thrive. 

In spite of widespread housing maintenance challenges, housing demand has continued to climb. Total vacancy and renter vacancy in the city is low compared to the state. (Figure 3-1). Home prices are also rising quickly, up 68% between 2019 and 2023 (Figure 3-2). These trends have threatened housing affordability and made purchasing a home more challenging for the 53 percent of Lancaster City households who are renters. Many households are considered cost burdened (defined as spending more than 30 percent of gross income on housing). This has led to greater housing instability, greater inequity between racial and ethnic groups, and even homelessness. The 20 percent of residents who live below the poverty line are often the most vulnerable to displacement.

Figure 3-2: Zillow Home Value Index for Lancaster Market Area, 2019-2023

On a fundamental level, residents are concerned about their ability to stay in the neighborhoods where they’ve recently moved—or have lived all their lives. Conserving existing affordable housing and production of new affordable housing are both priorities. The City also needs a mix of housing types, responding to changing needs, demographics, and market conditions. This includes housing for seniors and others with special needs, as well as market-rate housing at a variety of price points.

Maintaining the livability of Lancaster’s neighborhoods is also a priority. Some neighborhoods suffer from everyday nuisances, including inadequate street lighting and parking, and excessive noise and trash. Lower-income areas tend to be more heavily impacted than others, indicating a need for more equitable investment and service delivery across the city. This must be paired with strategies to enhance neighborhood character and appearance, creating a stronger sense of identity and making all parts of the city great places to live. Figure 3-3 identifies Lancaster’s planning regions for future data gathering.

The Comprehensive Plan engagement process and analysis revealed a set of core issues related to neighborhoods and housing. These include: 

  • Expanding the supply of housing, particularly affordable housing 
  • Improving the quality and safety of the existing housing stock 
  • Supporting housing stability—enabling people to stay in their homes 
  • Ensuring adequate shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness 
  • Conserving the historic and cultural character of our city 
  • Celebrating diversity and inclusion 
  • Addressing basic quality of life issues such as noise and trash 
  • Promoting investment in neighborhoods 
  • Ensuring equitable access to resources across neighborhoods 

The policies and actions below respond to these issues. They are divided into four elements:

  1. Housing Choice 
  2. Historic Places
  3. Investment and Revitalization
  4. Neighborhood Character and Identity

Figure 3-3

Policies & Actions


Objective: Facilitate a diversity of housing types, serving a range of household types and income levels, to meet the needs of current and future residents.

Policy SNH–1.1: Housing Production

Encourage and welcome housing production in Lancaster City. Minimize regulatory barriers such as lengthy approval processes, exclusive zoning, minimum habitable floor areas, and restrictive parking requirements. Allow and incentivize a variety of different housing types throughout the city, particularly multi-family dwelling types. 

Action SNH–1.1A: Housing Strategy Implementation and Targets

Implement the City’s Interim Housing Strategy. Using the Strategy’s main program tools, continue to fulfill the Produce, Protect, Acquire, Innovate, and Sustain goals and track progress against stated five-year targets.

Policy SNH–1.2: Housing Preservation

Partner with Lancaster City Housing Authority and other relevant agencies and organizations to maintain and upgrade housing units that contribute to a sound supply of subsidized and naturally occurring affordable homes for City residents. This may include the exploration of new financial models to achieve economic feasibility for property managers and developers, including voucher match programs. 

Policy SNH–1.3: Housing Affordability

Prioritize the production and preservation of affordable housing, including projects that mix affordable and market-rate housing units. Analyze development regulations including zoning, Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO), and the Official Map to identify ways to promote affordable housing. Expand affordable housing options where few exist, particularly in the northern half of the city. 

Action SNH–1.3A: Funding Sources for Housing

Continue to use federal funds such as HOME and CDBG to subsidize affordable housing. Tap into additional revenue sources to support housing affordability, such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and PHARE. 

Action SNH–1.3B: Housing Partnerships

Partner with landowners of large sites and/or multiple properties to identify opportunities for future affordable housing development and construct affordable housing where feasible.

Policy SNH–1.4: Housing Quality and Safety

Proactively protect residential properties and structures through inspections and property maintenance actions. Promote and support programs that improve the quality of both renter- and owner-occupied housing, such as Lead Remediation, Healthy Homes, and the Critical Repair Grants and Loans. Expand support to address other habitability issues such as accessibility, energy efficiency, radon, security and entryways, and pest control. (See also Policies BCC-1.5 and 1.6)

Policy SNH–1.5: Homelessness

Support the expansion and management of human and homeless services to ensure equitable access for all individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Collaborate with the Lancaster County Homelessness Coalition (LCHC), Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and other community partners to provide adequate shelter space, transitional and independent living facilities, and wrap-around essential services.

Action SNH–1.5A: Homeless Shelter Capacity

Partner with the Homelessness Coalition and appropriate County agencies to expand the number of low-barrier, emergency shelter beds available to persons experiencing homelessness. Establish a supportive services center that can serve as a hub for emergency needs and transitional housing. 

Action SNH–1.5B: Support for Extremely Low-Income Housing

Review, and where necessary revise, zoning definitions and approval processes to support the construction of housing serving extremely low-income persons. This includes day or night emergency shelters, transitional and supportive housing, residential care facilities, and group homes.

Policy SNH–1.6: Housing Inclusion and Innovation

Embrace novel and inclusive forms of housing to meet the diverse needs of all residents. Enable housing innovation such as home sharing, co-housing, accessory dwelling units, tiny homes, micro apartments, and intergenerational and multi-generational housing. Encourage the integration of accessible or visitable design elements in housing to better meet the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities. 

Action SNH–1.6A: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Create a clear approval pathway for property owners looking to add an accessory dwelling unit. Reduce regulatory barriers to creating ADUs, such as rear yard setbacks, parking, and exclusionary zoning. Promote multilingual educational resources that clarify the ADU approval process and support ADU development.

Policy SNH–1.7: Energy-Efficient Rehabilitation

Improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock to address climate change and reduce utility costs. Incorporate weatherization and green energy improvements into home rehab/repair programs, such as Healthy Homes, Critical Repair, or Redevelopment Authority of the City of Lancaster (RACL) and Land Bank Authority of the City of Lancaster projects. Educate residents and support access to rebates or tax credits for energy star products, renewable energy use, and energy efficiency improvements. 

Policy SNH–1.8: Housing Stability

Enable residents to stay in their current homes and neighborhoods. Support existing low-income homeowners through loans and grants for home improvements, especially for conditions that may result in condemnation or displacement. 

Action SNH–1.8A: Home Repair Programs

Further develop the menu of options for renters and homeowners to protect and preserve the City’s aging housing stock through partnerships with other public or private sector funders. The intent is to bolster or complement the City’s successful Critical Repair and Lead Remediation programs to reach more homes more quickly and expand the impact on housing quality, accessibility, and safety. 

Policy SNH–1.9: Home Ownership

Expand individual and cooperative homeownership among low- and moderate-income households to grow generational wealth and reduce the threat of displacement. Support programming to acquire occupied rental units for rehabilitation and sale to tenants.

Action SNH–1.9A: First Time Home Buyer Program

Continue the First-Time Home Buyer Program, which helps eligible lower-income residents become homeowners and seek resources to serve more eligible households, particularly in those census tracts with home ownership rates below 50%.


Objective: Preserve buildings and sites that contribute to the physical legacy and cultural heritage of the city’s diverse populations, while allowing flexibility for adaptive reuse.

Policy SNH–2.1: Preservation in City Processes

Integrate historic preservation guidance and enforcement in the planning, building, zoning, and development review process. Reduce demolition by neglect through increased education, citations, and preservation incentives. 

Action SNH–2.1A: Integration of Historic Preservation and Development Review

Identify and address common sources of conflict between zoning, SALDO and historic district requirements. Include preservation staff on inspection sign-offs with significant Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) or Historical Commission requirements or conditions. 

Policy SNH–2.2: Historic and Cultural Education & Tourism

Bolster historic and cultural tourism as an economic development tool. Strengthen public understanding of Lancaster’s diverse cultures, architecture, and history through interpretive signs and plaques, walking/biking tours, special events, and partnerships with allied organizations. 

Policy SNH–2.3: Inclusive Preservation

Ensure that preservation efforts are culturally inclusive and recognize the contributions of all communities to the city’s history and development. Elevate destinations associated with historically marginalized communities and those located in areas outside of the downtown. 

Policy SNH–2.4: Restoration Trades

Support job growth in building restoration trades so that these resources become more available and accessible to all communities within the city. Support and partner with organizations providing education, training, and apprenticeship programs in historic building restoration and related fields. 

Policy SNH–2.5: Preservation & Reuse of Historic Building Materials

Recognize the sustainability benefits of reusing and recycling existing building materials, including reduced landfill waste, lower carbon emissions, and less raw material consumption. Support deconstruction as an alternative to demolition through incentives, partnerships, and training, including safety measures for handling hazardous building materials. 

Policy SNH–2.6: Equitable Resources for Preservation and Maintenance

Support property owner efforts to preserve the integrity of their buildings when upgrading to meet current codes and standards. Assist low and moderate-income home or business owners in complying with property maintenance standards in ways that support historic preservation goals. 

Action SNH–2.6A: Historic Preservation Fund

Establish a historic preservation and property maintenance fund to assist low-income homeowners in complying with related requirements or citations. Explore methods of sustaining the fund, such as grant funding, private philanthropy, and dedicated revenue through code compliance or demolition by neglect revenue. 

Policy SNH–2.7: Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings

Require and incentivize the reuse, conversion, and rehabilitation of historic buildings in a manner that is compatible with future land uses and surrounding neighborhoods. Promoting adaptive reuse should be at the heart of the City’s approach to redevelopment. 

Action SNH–2.7A: Aligning Local Regulations

Identify, study, and address common sources of disparity between zoning, SALDO, building codes, and historic district requirements. Adjust or develop new review processes to deal with interrelated urban design and historic character issues, such as height, massing, and fenestration, and to incentivize preservation and adaptive reuse. 

Policy SNH–2.8: Architectural Standards for New Development

Promote development guidelines and codes that encourage compatibility with surrounding historic development patterns and architecture. Guidelines and codes also should ensure that modifications to historic properties are visually compatible with the property’s contributing features and flexible where appropriate.

Policy SNH–2.9: Historic Resource Inventories

Maintain and periodically update inventories of local historic resources, using methods and definitions that are consistent with state and federal criteria. Historic resources may include sites associated with important historic events or people, archaeological resources, and landscape elements, in addition to older buildings.

Action SNH–2.9A: Evaluation of Historic District Regulations

Review the Historic Districts ordinance for opportunities to include best practices in historic preservation, including procedural improvements. Research and Identify neighborhoods that may meet the qualifications for inclusion in the city’s Heritage Conservation District and/or the National Register District and consider expanding those districts accordingly. Submit proposals in accordance with state and federal guidelines for approval and adopt local ordinance revisions as needed.


Objective: Accommodate commercial uses and job growth and focus redevelopment resources in designated commercial hubs and corridors.

Policy SNH–3.1: Priority Commercial Hubs and Corridors

Create thriving commercial hubs and corridors that provide a sense of identity, convenient locations for goods and services, and gathering places for surrounding neighborhoods. Strategically focus investment and revitalization in these areas in a way that reinforces the City’s economic development strategies (see Element EEO-2) and implements the street typology and future land uses in the Comprehensive Plan.

Action SNH–3.1A: Hub and Corridor Map

Develop and maintain a map of priority commercial hubs and corridors used for land use, transportation, and economic development planning with Lancaster City Alliance and other partners. 

Policy SNH–3.2: Neighborhood Service Initiatives

Focus City service intervention and partner organization resources on blocks and neighborhoods with the most critical and urgent needs. Continue to update and refine data-driven methods for identifying priority areas for housing, streetscape, safety, green space, and infrastructure improvements, such as the Block Strength Indicator (BSI). 

Policy SNH–3.3: Vacant and Blighted Properties

Support the rehabilitation of vacant and blighted properties in ways that retain their affordability and benefit the community. Such properties should be moved promptly and fairly through the reinvestment process by connecting property owners with services and resources. Acquisition should be used as a last resort. 

Action SNH–3.3A: Properties with Promise Revitalization Guide

Complete “Properties with Promise: A Working Revitalization Strategy for Eliminating and Preventing Blight” to guide the work of the Property Reinvestment Board, Redevelopment Authority, and Land Bank Authority. These entities work together to put vacant and condemned properties into full productive use.

Policy SNH–3.4: Investment Sites

Proactively conduct community visioning, charettes, and small area planning around key investment sites that are likely to be redeveloped within the next 5-10 years. Ensure that zoning, SALDO, and related regulations enable and reflect community vision. 

Policy SNH–3.5: At-Risk Institutional Properties

Preserve and maintain iconic institutional buildings, including those that may be at risk of vacancy, deterioration, underuse, or disposition. Collaborate with owners and potential development partners to develop strategies for acquisition, shared use, maintenance, energy efficiency, or adaptive reuse with a focus on continued local stewardship and community benefit.


Objective: Protect and enrich the distinctive physical form of the city to improve the experience of Lancaster as a special and livable place.

Policy SNH–4.1: Neighborhood Businesses and Services

Expand the availability and variety of neighborhood-scale goods and services. Encourage the retention of existing commercial storefronts for small businesses and neighborhood-serving uses. 

Action SNH–4.1A: Zoning for Neighborhood Business

Revise zoning regulations and development review procedures as needed to support the goal of having convenient neighborhood-serving businesses in all parts of the city. This may include additional limits or prohibitions on ground floor residential uses in areas where commercial uses are desired, parking flexibility for neighborhood retail, and live-work arrangement.

Policy SNH–4.2: Neighborhood Identity

Foster a strong sense of neighborhood identity by sustaining anchor institutions such as schools and community centers, maintaining quality parks and public spaces, and enhancing neighborhood gateways and memorable features. 

Policy SNH–4.3: Design Compatibility

Encourage architectural and landscape design that respects local context and natural features, is compatible in scale with surrounding development, and contributes to the character of existing neighborhoods. Development regulations should recognize the qualities that contribute to neighborhood livability while balancing the need for more density and greater economic vitality. 

Policy SNH–4.4: Property Maintenance

Support the maintenance of private buildings and yards by residents and businesses. Maintain code enforcement and nuisance abatement programs that maintain the visual quality of neighborhoods and sustain continued property investment. 

Policy SN–4.5: Lighting

Ensure that pedestrian and vehicular ways are adequately-lit for safety and security, while maintaining visibility of the night sky to the greatest extent possible. Prioritize neighborhoods with limited existing lighting and those that tend to experience higher crime rates. Eliminate nuisance lighting and expand the use of energy efficient and smart lighting technology. 

Action SN–4.5A: Lighting Study & Standards

Develop an integrated lighting plan and design standards for the city. Identify appropriate lighting treatments according to street types, land uses, and urban context. The plan should support public safety, bike and pedestrian planning, Dark-Sky standards, energy efficiency, and safety and security goals, and incorporate emerging technologies.