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NATIONAL HOUSING STARTS 1985-2019

 

It took several weeks, but we finally have settled in Kerrville, and I couldn’t be happier. 

It took us a long time to find a home here in the Hill Country, because apparently the secret of the region is that it’s not that cheap, and affordable housing is hard to find. Seems to be a trend for us as of late. 

When we moved from California to Colorado, we were shocked that Greeley, Colorado, was way more expensive than our previous hometown of Bakersfield, California — at least when it comes to the price of a home. Honestly, Kerrville was kind of a similar shock

to us. I mean, you can get a lot of house and land for the money with interesting upgrades like armadillos and a lot of hoofed mammals wandering through. 

Sometimes, I think I’m driving through Wild Country Safari rather than a small town in Texas, but I digress. 

Since the housing collapse of 2008, which was already in a death spiral for nearly a year prior, the push for large-scale housing projects has been tempered by improved credit requirements and caution. 

Data from the National Association of Home Builders demonstrates how serious the problem is, with data showing housing starts have been at a historic low point since the recession. The United States hasn’t built more than 1 million new homes since July of 2007, according to the data. 

However, the data also shows sentiment when it comes to the overall market to be at its highest since before the recession. 

Kerrville has seen a similar trajectory, and since 2009, about 1,000 homes have been constructed —down from the approximately 13,000 constructed between 1980 and the Great Recession. This seems to be a story true for many communities across the United States. 

All of this makes for a tough housing market. When I got here, I had real estate agent Janelle Peralt cart me around neighborhoods looking for potential homes — and she did it with a clear mandate: no yards that require a riding lawnmower. 

As empty nesters, we don’t want a big house payment or a big house, because we have too much stuff already. I certainly don’t want a big yard. I’m a writer, not a gardener. 

However, here’s the challenge, as Peralt points out: 

“Definitely in the $200,000 or lower price point, and if there is nothing wrong with it, it’s going to jump off the market,” said Peralt, who has called Kerr County home for 28 years. 

My early temperature check about Kerrville is that this community is poised for great things, including rapid growth, but Peralt offers this cautionary advice.

“Kerrville is not going to be the new New Braunfels,” she said. “We just don’t have the industry for it.” 

Instead, she envisions a more managed sort of growth, even as the Kerrville City Council has moved toward making lot sizes smaller in order to incentivize new construction. 

Most importantly, there’s going to be no easy fix to the housing situation here, and it certainly won’t be quick. Peralt and others I’ve talked with think that smaller developments will be the norm, and that Kerrville’s quality of life and climate will continue to be attractive to retirees. 

“I would never advocate for a KB or Pulte to come here,” Peralt said. 

She’s right, because that sort of growth, as we’ve seen along the Interstate 35 corridor from San Antonio to Waco, becomes quickly unmanageable and strains infrastructure before you know it. 

After years of living in Southern California, I’ve seen that sort of growth first hand, where cities can double in size in a decade, and that’s not what we want to see either. Unmanaged growth leads to mayhem and stresses that are sometimes hard to fathom. 

For us, we were fortunate enough to find a budget-friendly rental in the hills. 

Of course, I’m not sure I want to see my 10,000-square-foot front yard from the seat

of a riding lawnmower, but there are probably worse things. 

Louis Amestoy is the managing editor of The Kerrville Daily Times.

 

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