Community discusses housing

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


On Tuesday, about 40 builders, bankers, city officials, and other interested parties gathered in a conference room at Kirkwood Washington to discuss the housing market in Washington County and what the market would look like in the future during the Washington Economic Development Group?s (WEDG) second housing forum.

After the meeting, WEDG director Ed Raber said that no plans had been made, but that wasn?t the idea of the meeting. Raber said much of the discussion revolved around things that weren?t happening in the county and what barriers exist. He said the overall idea was just to get people thinking in the direction of improving the housing market in Washington County and to get people to know each other for possible future projects together.

?I tried to show some of the positive economic trends that have been happening across Washington County and its communities,? Raber said. ?It is almost evenly spread among our communities, which is a rare thing. We end up talking about housing, and we just haven?t been generating the same number of homes as we had up until the housing crisis of about 2007.?

He hopes people at the meeting will reach out to each other to further discuss the issue.

During discussion, lenders in the community spoke of the possibility of banks collaborating for loans. Again, Raber said no decisions were made.

?I?ve had lenders explain to me one of the actual changes that has happened since 2007 that may or may not be due to the housing crisis, is the cost of building a home has really equalized,? Raber said.

Raber said during the forum that Washington County has seen a 2.5 percent growth in population over the last 10 years. Still, he said, the amount of housing being built in the county has decreased since 2007. Raber said that the cost of lots in Washington County is significantly more expensive than in Johnson County, where housing development is being done. The discussion turned to finding people who owned land and wanted to sell it for a reasonable price or people who wanted to partner with others to develop land.

For over an hour, the group discussed the potential of the growing county and the housing market.

?I?m hopeful people feel empowered to contact each other and have more conversations about ideas to try,? Raber said.

Raber believes another forum would be held next year.