Up to date news on the happenings in Eddystone, PA. For such a small town, there's always BIG drama...inside and outside Borough Council Chambers.

Housing Market takes a Belly Flop

In the Sunday Inquirer (10/16/11), a report appears analyzing the housing market since 2005. For Eddystone residents, the results are troubling. In 2005, Eddystone’s median house sale price sat at a robust $102,000. Along the river, no industrial town had a higher median home value. Six years later, those same houses are selling for $50,800, representing a 50% decrease in the value of our homes.

Only Colwyn (-64%), Darby Borough (-56%), and Chester City (-52%) posted larger percentage losses than our Borough. Over the same time, many communities posted a negative net value, including Ridley (-20%) and Ridley Park (-7%); the article stated that, after accounting for affluent home buyer activity, the overall change in house values in six years is -10%. Not everyone saw a decrease in home values, though. Trainer, an industrial neighbor along the river that serves as the other bookend to Chester, saw an increase in their home values by 40%. While Eddystone was 5 times worse than the average, Trainer was almost 5 times better.

In another article in the same issue of the Inquirer, Kevin Gillen, vice president of Econsult, the company that helped collect and analyze this data, specifically discussed the ‘river communities’ of Delaware County, saying that these communities have ‘structural, not cyclical, problems.”

That is concerning for Eddystone residents. It means the issues facing our local economy are rooted in how our community, for lack of better words, defines itself. If changes do not occur in how we operate, then we cannot expect things to improve when the economy does. Structural problems, at least to me, sounds like we need a make over of sorts.

Trainer is adapting its industrial history to respond to the commercial changes Chester City is making along the riverfront. In their community, new home construction increased along Rt. 291 and contributed to their median home values bucking the negative trend of decline. While Trainer’s home values increased by nearly 50%, Eddystone’s status quo thought process contributed to a decrease of 50% in our investments.

Stop and think for a second. That is almost a 100% net change between the two bookends of Chester. Using easy numbers, if I bought a home in Eddystone for $100,000 in 2005, it is now worth $50,000. In Trainer, that same $100,000 home is now worth $140,000. The investment difference between making the decision to buy in Eddystone versus Trainer is $90,000 in 5 years.

Who wouldn’t want an extra $90,000 in their pocket?

Eddystone is currently at a crossroads. If we are able to respond to the structural changes in how we operate, people may look at Eddystone as the new ‘bang for your buck’ community to move into. We have great access to public transportation, a good school system, and local access to shopping. We have the small town feeling that cannot be built. We also have a tremendous amount of land on the riverfront that could be converted into more marketable, usable, and sustainable revenue opportunities.

Dave Paterson was quoted in The Daily Times as saying that he wants to market Eddystone to young families that may work in Center City. Matt Stone was quoted as saying that he hoped to bring a fresh perspective to the Borough’s leadership. These are the changes that need to happen if Eddystone is going to sustain itself in the future.

In the same article, Councilman Kevin Begley was described as serving on Council for six years, the same exact amount of time that our housing market has crumbled. While Mr. Begley and his counterparts cannot be held accountable for the collapse of the housing market and economy, one does have to wonder what they have done while in office over the past six years to help protect residents’ home values. The unfortunate reality is that the last six years prove we have a group of leaders stuck in the past and unable to build a sustainable future.

A home is an investment. Sound investment strategy tells us that, if we are losing money, we need to change something. Clearly, the marketing strategy of this Council is not working. While the firehouse may buy them some votes in the short term, the increase in taxes that will follow in the years to come will not be attracting residents into our community. While our industrial past may provide great stories of the good old days, our present story shows a declining interest in people actually living here whom could benefit from that new construction.

As our residential population continues to decline, what will happen to the taxes of those of us that are left? And did the current Council consider that when they decided to borrow no less than 3 million dollars for new construction? If we are going to invest 3 million dollars into our community, shouldn’t we be investing it in areas that will create a strong return on that investment?

As stated by the experts in the housing market, the river communities face structural, not cyclical, issues. Without a forward thinking Council, our community will never make the progress like Trainer did, with or without a new firehouse.