The lack of affordable housing that has hindered the local real estate market in recent years is certainly not a phenomenon unique to Kerrville. Across the United States, home prices are rising at twice the rate of wage growth, while at the same time the demand for housing is outpacing the current supply.
Locally, the lack of new housing starts has played a key role in Kerrville’s currently sparse housing options. Almost 84 percent of the homes in Kerrville were built before 2000. The downturn in new, affordable home construction over the past two decades has been fueled by both the recession of 2007-09 and rising land prices in more recent years. As a result, the median value of a home in Kerrville today is close to $200,000, according to the website Neighborhood Scout. (The national median home value was $250,000 in the third quarter of 2018 per an article in the National Association of Realtors’ publication, “The Evolving Form of Housing.”)
In reality, properties in Kerrville in the $200,000 range are few and far between, and homes that do come open in that price range are purchased so quickly that the resulting transaction further escalates local housing values. And potential home buyers seeking a temporary solution in the rental market fare little better. Average rents in Kerrville are $1,043 per month per Neighborhood Scout — which actually is slightly higher than the principal and interest (excluding taxes and insurance) an approved buyer would pay on a $200,000 mortgage with a 30-year fixed-rate term at a going interest rate of 4.125 percent.
Needless to say, Kerrville’s shortage of affordable housing didn’t occur overnight, and unfortunately the solution won’t come overnight either. But Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn is leading a Task Force on Workforce Housing that includes approximately 15 builders, real estate professionals and others to address the city’s housing issues. This task force serves as a steering committee for a new Strategy and Housing Plan identified as a need in the Kerrville 2050 plan. The Strategy and Housing Plan, which is scheduled to be completed this fall, seeks to identify issues that are hindering new housing construction in the Kerrville market, and to research and recommend strategies to address housing gaps for all sizes and types of homes.
As part of Kerrville 2050 implementation, the city’s development codes are also being revamped to promote greater density dwellings, including townhomes, duplexes and residential downtown lofts, and to encourage smaller lots for development in an effort to cut the substantial land investment incurred in any new real estate housing ventures. The city is proactively further expanding infrastructure (streets, utilities) into catalyst areas identified as suitable for new housing development under the Kerrville 2050 plan, and we are working with local and statewide real estate builders and developers in an effort to attract a variety of new housing to Kerrville.
In conclusion, the city of Kerrville is making every effort to meet the top Guiding Principle identified in the Housing section of Kerrville 2050: “Provide a diverse range of housing options to meet the needs and desires of all age groups, income levels and lifestyles.” Progress will take time, but the rewards down the line will only enhance Kerrville’s reputation as a great place to live for all people in any stage of life.
Mark McDaniel is the city manager of Kerrville.