Rental housing shortage evident

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Greenville is experiencing a problem that plagues many parts of the nation, and that is a shortage of affordable rental housing for both low-and moderate-income households.

The problem is so widespread that the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently urged Congress to include a new rental housing production program as part of a comprehensive housing bill.

As of the last Census, taken in 2000, there were a total of 9,957 housing units in Butler County.

Of that number, 5,952 were in the city limits of Greenville; Georgiana and McKenzie had a combined number of 2,203 and the rest were in the county’s more rural locations.

Of that number, 17.3 percent of the housing in Butler County was considered rental property.

Even more alarming is that home-owned rental property had only a 2.2 percent vacancy rate while rental units had less than a 10 percent vacancy rate.

On Monday, calls around the Camellia City to various apartment complexes went unanswered and where calls were left, no calls were returned.

Jamie Gafford, who was working at Cambrian Forest Apartments said currently that complex has no vacancies and that a waiting list exists for those looking for a new home.

From all indications, this is the same situation around the city.

One person who knows the housing shortage exists is Butler County Commission

for Economic Development Executive Director Ricky McLaney.

He has worked with several Korean families on finding housing in the city as they moved to the city in conjunction with Hysco and Hwashin.

&uot;At first, we were having problems finding housing,&uot; he said. &uot;But more came available as more people found out there was a market.

You can always find rental property, but sometimes its not the caliber they are looking for.&uot;

McLaney said many people don’t normally think of the newer houses as being rental property.

&uot;The newer homes are what they look for,&uot; he said.

He pointed out that just a short time ago Cambrian Forest went from a situation where they had empty apartments every month to where they now have a waiting list.

&uot;It really says to me that we need another nice apartment complex here in town,&uot; he said.

Mary McKinley, owner and broker of First Realty of Greenville quickly admits Greenville has a shortage of rental property.

&uot;We manage around 45 units in the area and I own three rental units myself that I built over my offices here in downtown,&uot; she said. &uot;Everything right now is full except for one unit we manage out in the country near the county line.&uot;

McKinley said there was a time when rental property slowly found occupants, but those days are gone.

&uot;Now there is such a demand for rental properties, that we have more applicants than we have properties,&uot; she said. &uot;We need more rental property and soon.&uot;

McKinley said her office receives approximately 15 to 20 calls per week, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg for them.

&uot;It’s really hard to track that because we have our properties on the Internet and we also have our housing catalog,&uot; she said.

&uot;We don’t know how many people are using that.&uot;

Just up the street at Debbie Martin Realty, the song is the same.

According to Susan Rhodes, a Realtor with the Martin agency, the lack of rental property is a problem for them as well.

&uot;There is no decent rental housing or apartment vacancies to be found in the city,&uot; she said. &uot;There is not adequate rental property period.

We currently have nothing available.&uot;

Rhodes said the agency usually keeps rental property pretty full.

Back at First Realty, McKinley believes more apartment homes are needed in the city.

&uot;I do know some developers who are talking about building some homes for sale or rent,&uot; she said. &uot;Other than that I don’t know, but I actually believe we need some more apartments.&uot;

Rhodes said the same at Martin’s agency.

&uot;We have a couple of investors who have come to the plate to fix up some homes and offer them for rental property,&uot; she said. &uot;That is a pretty good investment.

We also have lots for sale to develop, so it looks like it is going to be people who buy homes or build them and use them as rental properties.&uot;

McKinley said she may offer three loft apartments in the future at some point, but has not decided to take the plunge.

&uot;I’ve got to have time to put my head to it and really think about it,&uot; she said. &uot;I have to see that is feasible. I would like to do the same in my old warehouse building that I’ve done here over my offices.

It may materialize or it may not.&uot;

As for home sales, McKinley said those are also up in her agency.

&uot;It is really brisk,&uot; she said.

&uot;There are homes that have been on the market for a long time that are beginning to move.&uot;

Connie Coleman of Coleman Realty also said the shortage of rental properties is growing more severe.

She manages the Camellia Apartments and also some rental homes throughout the area.

&uot;We have very few available of each,&uot; she said. &uot;Right now I have one house available for rent.

That to me shows how critical the shortage of rental properties is today.

We get calls everyday from people looking for something to rent.&uot;

She said many times the people calling about rental property are moving to Greenville, but want to first live here before deciding what area to make their home.

&uot;These people want to take their time to decide on what area best fits them and we aren’t able to accommodate them,&uot; Coleman said.

&uot;Although there are a number of apartment complexes in town, we still need additional apartments to accommodate those who choose to live in apartments and those who need to live there a short time.&uot;

Coleman said the housing doesn’t need to be cheaply made, but should have some standards set.

She added more rental homes are needed and said it is an investor’s market.

&uot;Anyone looking for an investment opportunity; now is the time,&uot; she said. &uot;A number of people have been through here considering taking the older buildings downtown and converting them to loft apartments.&uot;

She said these loft apartments would be a great way to utilize the downtown buildings, keeping the area a viable part of the city. &uot;This is just the ideal place for that opportunity,&uot; she said.

Coleman said she has also noticed an increase in home sales this year, but isn’t quick to attribute it to any one thing.

&uot;It is really hard for me to add this to a trend,&uot; she said. &uot;We always have more sales during the spring and summer than we do any other time of the year. However, yes, there are more sales this year.&uot;

She said that means there are fewer houses on the market locally, and that has two sides as well.

With a smaller market, buyers don’t have the variety in homes they did before, but on the other side, the sellers do sell their homes,&uot; she said.