Since the Great Recession, tightened regulations have made lenders more responsible and practical. Many people lost their jobs, homes or much more and are now far more conscientious when it comes to spending.
During the recession, the real estate market suffered. Prior to 2009, prices were at unsustainable levels. If you were breathing, you were qualified for a mortgage. Predatory lending and sub-prime interest rates enlarged an already inflated bubble. Then the bubble burst.
As we’ve rebounded, there seems to be a new regulator: residents. Another wave of growth is happening throughout the Triangle. While we continue to add jobs, demand for housing, retail and services subsequently escalates. Developers respond to this demand, and they receive an incredible amount of push-back from a vocal minority in the community.
As the vocal minority takes the podium, elected leaders are forced to divert their attention from the overall strategy and vision in order to address specific or emotional issues. It now seems that elected officials are expected to be experienced land-use planners. In fact, towns employ capable and qualified planners to translate a council’s vision into reality in a fast-growing market.
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Unfortunately, that direction changes every two to four years based on the outcomes of our local elections. Ideologies fluctuate, sending mixed signals to the business community, and without predictability and consistency, business leaders and investors become hesitant.
We’ve seen this many times in the Triangle – opposition to a grocery store, mixed-use development or residential development. A few residents have initiated their own growth-control visions due to their lack of confidence in the market and real estate development community.
Many times I hear, “When are we going to be at apartment overload?” The Triangle is a strong market for multi-family living. With more people choosing to rent, high-density housing affords communities with several significant advantages, including reduced sprawl, reduced infrastructure requirements,and higher tax revenue per acre. This lifestyle is not only appealing to millennials but also to empty-nesters and Baby Boomers. Therefore, demand is high.
If economic development and jobs continue to be the priorities, we must understand the increased demand for housing and other services that result from it. No one relocates to this area solely because there is a new development; it’s the employment opportunities. We all must plan and work to accommodate the expected growth. Moratoriums or other slow-growth tactics label a municipality as not being friendly to business. Not only does it negatively affect a town’s revenue, there also are unintended consequences such as lost employment opportunities for citizens.
Dr. Michael Walden’s latest “Economic Impacts of Residential Construction in Wake County, North Carolina” report shows that multi-family development creates 125 jobs during the construction phase and 98 during the occupancy phase. Single-family development creates 132 jobs per 100 homes in the construction phase and 104 jobs during the occupancy phase. Out of all of these jobs, only about 44 are construction jobs.
Housing affordability is one of the greatest issues the Triangle faces. If construction ceased (or even slowed) in the Triangle, prices would quickly become unaffordable. Even now, current supply is limited and, as reported in The N&O a few weeks ago, homes under $250,000 are in a bidding war, which means there are fewer affordable homes on the market.
The Triangle will continue to grow and evolve. We’re expected to double our population over the next 20 years. Elected officials must remember their role as visionary leaders. As residents, we must regain trust in the planning officials and better understand the demands placed on our market to meet the housing and commercial needs of our area.
Jacob C. Rogers is the director of government affairs at the Triangle Apartment Association.