Glassy Mountain And The Local Housing Shortage
By Alex Saitta
June 13, 2017
I read the story about the proposed sub-division of 250 homes below Glassy Mountain. This subdivision is too high of an impact for that area and I oppose it. I’m disappointed the county government has given the project the green light to go forward. A lot was said, but the discussion didn’t touch on the underlying problem our area is facing — a housing shortage, why the shortage exists and what is the best solution.
Last year when I ran for county council, I wrote a letter detailing the Pickens area is facing a housing shortage. Now, on average, rents and the cost of homes are rising about 10% a year.
The shortage of new homes has been caused by primarily two things.
The financial crisis and the wave of bank foreclosures resulted in tighter lending standards by banks when it comes to real estate development, so there has been less construction of new homes.
Excessive regulation when it comes to building new subdivisions, mainly the requirements when putting in roads, curb, gutter and storm water systems. Add in all the permitting, inspections, engineering, and the amount a developer must lay out before he can sell one lot is staggering.
On the campaign trail I spoke to 4 or 5 local developers who used to build smaller lower impact subdivisions of 30 to 40 lots and all got out of the business. The regulation and resulting upfront costs were too steep for these developers and the limited number of lots they used to sell.
Today when you look at housing construction in our area, there is no longer an in-between. What we have seen the past five years or so is a one-off house built on an existing road, avoiding all the curb, gutter and storm water head-aches. But no new subdivisions of any size, let alone 30 or 40 lots, have gone up. As a result, now it is starting to make economic sense for large subdivisions to go up. One, the pent up demand is high and growing. Two, only subdivisions that sell a hundred-plus tightly packed lots can cover the steep curb, gutter, roads and storm water costs I listed.
This is the root of the problem — our local developers who used to build the smaller, lower impact subdivisions have been run out of business by the costs of excessive regulation. We need them back. Without these smaller developers building 30 to 40 lot subdivisions here and there, housing prices will either sky-rocket or we’ll end up with large high-density developers coming into our area to meet the rising demand, impacting our area’s scenic beauty.
I found it ironic that Upstate Forever opposed the 250 lot development. I think it was their push for excessive regulation on land development, however, that has driven these smaller developers out of business, leaving the market ripe for large, tightly packed, high impact subdivisions that will generate the profit to cover all these environmental costs. If the market was allowed to function properly without excessive regulation and government intervention, we wouldn't have gotten in the situation we are in now.
I recommend the county council meet with a handful of local/ small developers and ask why they are no longer building subdivisions? Likely they’ll tell the council what they told me — the regulation is too costly, making the development of small subdivisions prohibitive. Then the council must dial back on the excessive regulation to make is profitable to again build smaller, lower impact subdivisions. That’s the long-term solution to the growing housing shortage in our area.