I had an interesting conversation earlier today that caused me to stop and think about some of the area housing issues. An old acquaintance stopped by the office this morning. She said she wanted to talk about Corvallis housing costs. She is working with a group that is examining just why there seems to be a lack of housing here that might fit the middle range buyer. We have some real activity and organization behind low income housing but nothing much aimed at middle income buyers.
This friend comes from an administrative background in a public service institution and is very familiar with prospective new employees turning down local job opportunities as their middle range income didn’t allow them to purchase what they thought their minimum housing needs would be. In her retirement she is working with a volunteer group to try and further understand this problem.
Her question to me was what do I feel a middle income housing range would be. My gut reaction (no real statistics pulled up to back this up, was probably $200,000 to $300,000 and tending toward that lower number. I also explained to her that supply and demand has caused a real shortage in this bracket. That shortage always forces the price up and all of a sudden a prospective home is no longer in this middle income range. So, with that stated, she wanted to know why I thought that was.
Again, I had no statistical back up for my opinions but felt it had to do with a cautious area attitude toward growth. Too many subdivisions were turned down by voters in the past because they didn’t like how it affected them. Congestion, noise, stress on local infrastructure are always sited by those in opposition to new developments in THEIR area. Kind of the old NIBY reaction. There is usually enough support around that idea that fewer new home subdivisions are allowed. That, then, engages the old supply and demand axiom and those that already exist increase in scarcity and consequently value.
I have been through two pretty large recessions in this area and a couple of smaller ones. Each time Corvallis has dropped down into the price canyon slower and popped back out faster than any of our surrounding population centers. In each case those areas had a larger supply of new inventory than we did which in those downturns is a detriment. With our conservative, cautionary attitudes towards growth and somewhat zealous building requirements we did not end up with excess housing and therefore prices here never approximated the lowering prices in other areas that had allowed more development. Remember this is just one person’s opinion. I have done no statistical study but have arrived at this thought just through living here and watching the system for over 30 years.