By Jeanna Baxter White
North Carolina has a housing shortage.
Since February of 2020, the number of available homes in North Carolina has dropped by more than 50%, and the prices have increased by 6.5 – 7.9 percent, economic strategist Ted Abernethy, Economic Leadership LLC, shared during his State of Davie address in April.
Davie County is no exception. While four income-based apartment complexes have been constructed in the last five years, there have been few single-family homes built. After a high of 445 homes in 2005, the banking crisis of 2008 hit, and only 334 permits were requested between 2009 – 2014. Building permit applications are still less than half of the pre-2008 number. And with 98.9 percent of occupied housing built before 2010, it is unlikely that the homes coming onto the market include the current trends in amenities and floor plans sought by young professionals.
The Far-Reaching Effects of a Lack of Housing
“I was looking in the Triad MLS the other day and noticed that supply is at an all-time low. Sales continue to outpace new inventory each month,” said Ellen Grubb, Hillsdale Real Estate Group. “This includes existing and new construction homes. I have been a realtor in Davie County for 30 years and I have never seen a market like we are currently experiencing, with almost NO homes to sell!” Buyers are in a bad place right now, especially first-time homebuyers that can’t offer over asking price or to go up against cash offers.”
The effects of a lack of affordable housing are far-reaching.
- Singles and young couples just getting started, growing families needing more space, and older people seeking to downsize will have to leave the county in order to find a place to live.
- Almost 70 percent of all tax revenues raised by local governments in the United States comes from property taxes. Homeowners contribute about 43 percent of property taxes, while commercial property taxes account for the remaining 57 percent. (National Association of Realtors)
- Housing shortages compound labor shortages. While Davie has been fortunate to experience a 45% increase in new jobs since 2010, the local labor force has remained flat. Abernethy explained that in order to meet current and future labor needs, the County must either convince people to commute in or build more housing to attract new workers.
Since widespread labor shortages mean prospective employees have little incentive to commute, additional housing is critical to fill existing needs and spur continued growth.
Housing Choices Are a Top Consideration for Businesses
Terry Bralley, president of the Davie County Economic Development Commission, said that housing is a topic he receives frequent questions about when talking with companies considering a move to the area.
“I can’t tell you how many plant managers have asked me, ‘Where are my people going to live?’ New housing can be a catalyst in keeping or attracting younger workers and families to move to our area.”
“We’ve been able to bring in enough industry to keep our tax rates low. The problem is we now need enough homes to support that industry,” said Mocksville Mayor Will Marklin. “We’ve got to build the homes to be able to get people to come in and work the jobs that help keep our tax rates low.”
Community Appreciation & Investment
Developing modern affordable housing has been a key concern of community leaders for the past several years as evidenced in the Davie County Economic Development Strategic Plan (2018), the Davie County Aging Plan (2019), or the Davie County Comprehensive Plan (2019).
Bralley said he has spent years trying to recruit developers and builders willing to take a chance on market-priced residential housing in Davie with no success — until now.
Jimmy McKnight, president of Realco Investment Properties, recognizes Davie County as a hidden gem.
“Davie County is a shining star in a community of nice places,” said McKnight. “Ya’ll stand out. I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring something to Mocksville that people will truly like and appreciate.”
A real estate developer and broker for over 35 years, he hopes to develop a 150-acre property behind the Eastgate Shopping Center in Mocksville into a residential neighborhood that would include a mix of townhomes, patio homes, and single-family dwellings. The development would also include a section near the highway for future commercial office space. The project is expected to add over $100 million to the town’s tax base. A rezoning request for a portion of the property is pending.
McKnight worked with American Engineering Associates to develop a conceptual site plan that will meet the needs of the community while also having the least impact on surrounding neighbors.
Minimizing Traffic While Maximizing A Connection to Our Community
To minimize traffic, the development will have only two entrances/exits: one on Country Lane and one from US Hwy 601. Sediment ponds were designed to manage any run-off. There will be a minimum of 50 feet of planted buffer between homes in the development and other properties. “We respect the needs of the neighbors beside us. We know that they want to be able to look out into the woods and we try to maintain that integrity,” said Jay Gilleece, an engineer with American Engineering Associates.
The neighborhood will be divided into three communities: townhomes, patio homes, and single-family homes. He envisions young professionals purchasing a townhome as they get started in their careers and later selling it to buy one of the larger family homes once they have children. After they retire, he sees couples downsizing to one of the single-level patio homes. “We are trying to meet the needs of all facets of the market.”
The location of each community has been carefully considered. The townhomes will be closest to the 601 entrance and the shopping center, the patio homes will adjoin Willow Pond, an apartment community for seniors, and the single-family homes will back up to other single-family homes on Ivy Lane.
While some developers are building entire neighborhoods of rental homes, McKnight emphasized that these homes will be for sale to individuals at market value, in the $200,000 – $350,000 range. “These homes are for people who want to live in your community and invest in your community.”
The development will be enhanced by large areas of open space interspersed with miles of greenways that will connect to Rich Park and the Davie Family YMCA, Willow Pond Apartments, Eastgate Shopping Center, and Joppa Cemetery. McKnight said that once built, the greenways would be dedicated to the town.
Relationships & Community Are the Priority
McKnight’s sensitivity to the community sets his developments apart. There is a little nuance to the plan that other developers might have ignored. “Right here is where Daniel Boone’s parents are buried,” he said, pointing to Joppa Cemetery on the map. “To me, that is sacred ground. Although we have a large enough easement that we could have tried to push to put a street out to 601, I didn’t think that was an appropriate thing to do. Instead, we decided to build a trail that will bring pedestrian or bicycle traffic out to 601 in a way that honors the significance of the cemetery and what it means to the community.”
“I believe in relationships and I believe it’s always better to come back the second time having done a good job the first. I am not someone who is looking to make a fast buck and leave town. I want to always be able to come back and be welcomed and become an asset to the community,” McKnight said.
Marklin hopes the Mocksville community will recognize how fortunate it is to have an experienced developer with a proven track record interested in investing in the community and fulfilling a desperate need. “Alleviating our housing shortage is an important step in securing our strong and vibrant future.”
Examples of Work of Potential Builders