There is a cadre of people who are fixated on a number when it comes to the proposed Vintage Heights development for Kerrville — $46,000 and some change.
That’s the median household income in Kerrville. The figure was presented to the Kerrville City Council last year by a consultant, who was gleaning information from the publicly available American Community Survey produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Many of the critics of Vintage Heights, which would add 510 homes to the city, cite the median income as proof that the city is fooling the community into allowing this project to move forward. The city, along with other community leaders, argues that this project is needed because of the area’s shortage of affordable housing. The buzz word, of course, is “workforce.”
The suggestion, from critics, is there is no way someone earning little more than $46,000 per year can afford a home priced about $227,000.
Here’s the problem with their assessment: It fails to include one major reason why Kerrville’s median household income is only $46,000, and that’s Social Security. Keep in mind that the median is not mean income.
If you look at household income for working families the median income is more than $60,000, and the mean income is nearly $80,000. The number of households collecting Social Security benefits in Kerrville, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was 4,579 in 2018. The median wage for someone receiving Social Security is about $20,000.
In a comment on The Kerrville Daily Times’ Facebook page, Kerrville United writer Aaron Yates summed up the situation this way: Workforce housing is defined by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. They have established the median income in our area at $57,700. The TDHCA says that "workforce housing" is within range for households with 80-120% of median income number, and that's how the maximum level of $227,000 has been established for our area.
Our senior residents are outstanding contributors to the fabric of our community. Those seniors are a critical component of our economy, especially in the healthcare industry and service sectors. Many of them, or those who will retire here in the future, very well could be among those who will find these new homes as affordable options for their own housing needs.
Those who argue against this housing development by citing a low median income, are failing to acknowledge how Social Security income is skewing this number. It remains that there is demand among working families for housing that can be purchased with individual incomes in the $60,000 range.
Consider this snapshot of employment in Kerrville alone:
Peterson Health currently has 68 open positions, including 31 nursing jobs.
Schreiner University lists five faculty jobs on its website.
Kerrville State Hospital has 17 positions, including physicians and nurses.
Kerrville Independent School District has 13 positions listed on its website.
Indeed.com, an aggregator of recruitment of advertiser, lists 83 jobs paying $20 or more an hour.
Right now there are more than 100 jobs that pay in the range that’s within the median of those family income levels. All of these workers will be paid salaries appropriate for the proposed homes, but many of these employers are having trouble recruiting and filling these positions, because of housing shortages.
And there’s the reality of what’s to come: The Kerrville State Hospital will add 260 jobs in the coming years as it makes significant improvements to the campus. Anticipating our housing shortages, the state is considering bussing employees to us from outside the area.
If every single one of those state hospital employees lived in Kerrville with our current market conditions there would be an immediate shortage of housing that is considered affordable — $250,000 or less. Real estate website Zillow lists 45 single-family homes in Kerrville. There are only five condos or townhouses in that range.
Imagine all 260 of those jobs at the state hospital and all 68 positions filled at Peterson (328 jobs all told) with people who want to live in this community. What would mean for our future? Yes, that’s a need that definitely won’t be met in our current state.