St. Marys Town Council holds housing developers' roundtable

·3 min read

By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With the Town of St. Marys pushing forward with its efforts to address attainable housing, the municipality recently brought together a panel of industry members for an extensive discussion on what the causes are for the current state of the St. Marys housing market, and how the Town might go about helping to rectify those issues.

At last Tuesday's St. Marys Town Council special meeting, real estate officials and housing developers joined Council members to discuss the barriers to attainable housing that currently exist, and what the Town could do to help increase housing attainability in St. Marys. The panel was broken up into several rounds with several themes and topics, which will be aggregated into a comprehensive report to be reviewed by the Council at a later date. It should be noted that this discussion was highly extensive and in-depth and this article provides a summary of some of the noteworthy points raised. However, there was an incredible volume of valuable points made during the more than three hours of discussion, too much to be summarized in full here. When the Council reviews the Town staff's summary of this meeting, we will update you with more on the key takeaways from this meeting.

One of the key themes touched on during the builders and developers segment of the panel was an increase in costs. It was noted that prices for both land and some supplies like lumber have increased, a cost which, at least in part, can get passed on to a tenant in the form of a rental unit's price. There also is a much greater demand for attainable housing units than there is a supply which has also contributed to an increase in cost. This was mentioned by both builders and real estate workers, as members from both sides of the housing industry pointed out that, if the market had more units available consistently, that competition would push the prices down. However, with so few units available in St. Marys at any given time, it raises the price for everyone. Another notable cost increase relates to the availability of skilled trades workers. With the sharp increase in projects, the demand for trades workers has also sharply increased, but the supply has not kept pace. This means the cost for those workers has increased steeply as those in the trades are in a position to pick and choose which projects they take on and can get developers into bidding wars for their services.

Another interesting item mentioned was a reminder of how much time, effort, and cost goes into a development before it reaches the Council floor or shovels are put in the ground. This includes but is not limited to design preparations, land alterations, and modifications after the initial design phase. Furthermore, concerning a rental unit's pricing, for large-scale developments, because they are long-term projects, contracts for the development are signed a long time out from tenants actually moving it, so it becomes difficult to adjust the cost of rent in the later stages of the development as project costs have already been stipulated. Often, in multi-tenant rental projects, the only time prices can be adjusted is when a tenant moves out. But, with so little supply of attainable housing in the community, tenants rarely move out. Developers often are met with resistance from the public, specifically those in the area of a new project, which costs the developers more time and money.

It's important to reiterate that there were many more valuable points made by the developers, builders, and real estate officials that simply provided too much information to fit into one article and it was clear that there are many different factors in the discussion of attainable housing. As the Town staff collects all of the info received and creates a comprehensive report for Council, we will continue to provide further detail on all of the major points that the Council focuses on coming out of this panel.

Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent