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Study shows county has opportunities with rental units

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on housing in the county based on a recently completed housing study.)

Williams County could support up to 486 new housing units in the next three years, especially in the rental market, according to a recent housing study.

The results of the study, conducted by DiSalvo Development Advisors, LLC, for the Williams County Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO), were presented to several county officials recently by Pete DiSalvo.

The study found the Williams County rental vacancy rate is .9%, while the ideal rate of vacancy is 5%. DiSalvo said the 5% rate allows for internal mobility as well as those outside the county to move into it. The study found the county lost 140 renter households in the last 10 years.

According to the study, which surveyed seven market-rate rental units in the county, totaling 220 units, only Lake Pioneer Condos showed any vacancies at the time of the study, and that was two units out of 64. The study noted the owner of that property said those likely will fill quickly and the facility is usually 100% full.

Foxglove Apartments in Bryan has the highest one-bedroom rental rate in the county, according to the study. It’s 60 units were built in 1975.

“The fact that an older property like Foxglove achieves the highest rents in the market speaks to the lack of quality and available one-bedroom rentals in the market,” the study stated.

“So if I left an apartment and I wanted to go somewhere else, which people primarily want to be able to go to the next newest thing or improve on their housing, you don’t have options,” DiSalvo said of market rate rentals, which are typically in the rental range of $775 per month for a one-bedroom up to $1,000 per month for a three-bedroom.

He also said getting new rental developments, especially of the market rate variety, will likely be difficult for the county because rental rates are among the lowest in the region.

“If you look at Williams County, we’re really missing that upper end, upper quartile if you will, of rents,” DiSalvo said.

He added many of the employees in the county, especially at manufacturing facilities, can afford these types of rents but travel into the county from outside for the jobs.

DiSalvo also said some apartment units in the county could raise their rents, though others have quality issues that would prevent them from doing so.

“The opportunity is there to either improve your property and put your rents up or look at where you’re renting, and if it’s some of the nicer apartments, maybe (they) need to be up a little higher,” DiSalvo said.

He added that the lower rates make it difficult for developers to come in and build new market-rate units because they don’t want to be the first in an area with higher rental rates.

“But the more there is, the more reason to come into a market to develop,” DiSalvo said.

He also said the amenities of a community can help attract new residents, and pointed to Bryan’s downtown specifically as having the potential for some more upscale apartment living opportunities.

“Especially among engineers and people coming from metropolitan areas, that many of them just won’t want to live here, they’re just too used to the big city,” DiSalvo said.

“But downtown Bryan, you have opportunities there to put some cool apartments in and you have some things going on downtown,” he added. “I would push that a little bit.”

He said professionals used to a bigger city would like to be able to walk from their apartment to get coffee, dinner or drinks, and Bryan offers that in the downtown.

“I think it’s a real opportunity that Bryan should start with and that’ll help some of the downtowns start to consider it,” DiSalvo said.

Bryan Area Foundation President/CEO Amy Miller said that is being worked on, but obstacles exist.

“Obviously the cost to renovate those historic buildings is insane,” Miller said.

DiSalvo said there are tax breaks available for renovating historic buildings, but Miller said they can be difficult to navigate. DiSalvo said he would put her in contact with an architect that works in that area.

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