Renters and buyers alike are struggling to find a place to call home in Onslow County as a serious housing shortage continues to rise.
Onslow needs 2,000 housing units per year to keep up with growth, but that’s not happening. New construction cannot keep up with a population explosion that’s outpaced what builders can accomplish during a pandemic in an area still reeling from a natural disaster that claimed many homes.
“This has been a cascading problem for us since Hurricane Florence,” said Royce Bennett, broker associate with Century 21 Champion Real Estate and an Onslow County Commissioner. “We’re kind of falling behind every year instead of gaining ground.”
The elevated cost of building materials has thrown a wet blanket on new development in several parts of the country that experienced a sudden reduction in available housing. Although the cost of lumber has gone down in recent weeks, it won’t be enough to bring on more housing for those who need it most.
“When you look at the fact that we got the military growing, there’s a shortage of housing options,” said Scott Franko, marketing director for Treasure Realty in Topsail Beach. “It’s hard to get into new construction, and there’s very few options for the consumer looking for the starter home because the inventory is dramatically down.”
Franko said lumber and other construction costs have risen so much that developers are not focused on the less profitable market of $300,000 homes, although that’s where the demand lies. Builders have catered more to high end buyers in recent months because they don’t mind paying the higher price of materials.
“There’s people willing to build and look at that option, but they’re going to pay more for land and construction than a year ago,” said Franko.
On top of the shortage, high construction costs have created an issue of affordability for both renters and buyers.
“We kind of got a two-tier system here with so much of our population being military and veterans and then other people who are really low income,” said Bennett.
Onslow County only issued certificates of occupancy on 1,100 units last year. Multiple agencies vested in growth and economic development are staying in communication on strategies to retain current residents and create an atmosphere where people can start businesses and keep their money in the local economy.
“It’s good that we’re talking. We’re asking how we stop the leakage of people who want to spend their money somewhere else,” said Franko.