Survey: Kennett Square needs affordable housing, better parking

Kennett Square residents say there’s a lack of affordable housing in the borough, and a shortage of open space and park land, according to results of a resident survey released last week.

But most residents say they are extremely satisfied with the overall quality of life in Kennett Square, and they are very happy with the education students received at the Kennett Consolidated School District.

More than 400 Kennett Square residents – or 28 percent of the population -- participated in the National Citizen Survey, a survey used by hundreds of towns in the U.S. that focuses on a series of community characteristics and local government services, as well as issues of public trust. The survey will be used as public input for the borough’s strategic planning process.

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“Overall, the community is very satisfied with the quality of life here,” said Brant Kucera, borough manager. “They are satisfied with their neighborhood and appearance of the community. All of that is very positive.”

The survey showed Kennett Square residents feel the public works department is doing a great job.

“Police were very highly rated, as was the fire department,” Kucera said. “This shows us how safe people feel here. We are much above the national average, even in the downtown.”

The survey showed that 42 percent of borough residents pay $999 or less for their rent or mortgage. “A higher percentage of our residents spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing,” Kucera said. “This survey reaffirmed that there is a lack of affordable housing here.”

Known as a festival town, residents enjoy the many events that take place throughout the year. Eighty-six percent of residents attend the Mushroom Festival, 70 percent attend the annual Memorial Day Parade, 69 percent have gone to the Farmer’s Market at least once in the past year, 60 percent attend Cinco de Mayo, and 58 percent attend the Halloween Parade.

Access to public transportation was rated low. Just 6 percent of residents have ridden a local bus within Kennett Square. Though pedestrian friendly, it’s a nightmare for bicyclists.

“We just don’t have good opportunities here for bicyclists,” Kucera said. “Given the special limitations for our streets, it’s difficult to develop.”

As expected, parking issues remain a huge concern for residents. One out of every four Kennett residents rate availability of parking in the borough as poor. Fifty-five percent says it’s either very important or essential that the borough develop additional parking in the downtown commercial areas.

Most Kennett Square residents rated interaction and courteousness of borough staff as either excellent or good.

More than half of Kennett Square residents anticipate they will still be living in the borough for the next five years, and half would recommend living in Kennett Square to someone who asks.

Nine out of 10 Kennett Square residents want the borough to continue capital improvements to public infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, etc.), yet 85 percent want the borough to find ways to reduce costs of delivery in order to keep property taxes down and 34 percent say it’s either very important or essential that the borough hire new employees to maintain or expand borough services.

The population of Kennett Square has increased by more than 700 residents in the past two censuses and the survey indicated some people feel the borough is growing too fast.

“There’s a perception that a lot of people are moving into the community,” Kucera said. “I look at it as this is a place people want to live.”

Other survey findings: In Kennett Square, 68 percent are registered to vote, 38 percent of the population are either Spanish, Hispanic or Latino, 88 percent have a cell phone, 68 percent are employed full-time and 11 percent part-time, 25 percent have never used services provided by the Bayard Taylor Library, (though 86 percent rate library services as either good or excellent), 75 percent of residents never attended a concert at the Kennett Flash and 50 percent never participate in religious or spiritual activities in the borough.

Kucera has managed communities in Idaho and Michigan, and he said this survey indicated Kennett Square residents have a sense of community.

“I think people here are more optimistic about the future,” he said. “There’s a grounding in this community, and people want to stay in it.”

The survey will be distributed again to borough residents in two years.