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Researcher breaks down Wood County housing study

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Patrick Bowen, of Bowen National Research, spoke Monday before a number of local leaders and development officials about an assessment his company conducted of the area on housing needs. Bowen said there is a lack of available housing and affordable housing locally and that can impact whether companies will want to locate here. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County area does not have a large inventory of available housing locally which can prevent companies and people coming to the area, said a consultant who did an assessment of the area for local development officials over the past year.

Patrick Bowen, of Bowen National Research of Columbus, spoke Monday afternoon in Parkersburg City Council Chambers before around 50 local leaders and development officials about the Housing Needs Assessment his company conducted of the area. Another discussion was held at 6 p.m.

The 400-page assessment report produced by Bowen’s group looked at the Parkersburg area, then Vienna and then the rest of Wood County. They looked at demographics, economics, existing housing stock and more as well as trends about where people are coming into the area from, existing services, available sites to build on or buildings that could be renovated and more.

“The area hasn’t really grown for the last 20-something years,” Bowen said. “You’re not growing, you’re changing.”

Over the last 10-11 years, household numbers have declined and over the next five years it is estimated the area could lose another 2%, or 759 households.

Patrick Bowen, of Bowen National Research, spoke Monday in Parkersburg City Council Chambers before a number of local leaders and development officials about an assessment his company conducted of the area. He said there is not a large inventory of available housing which will impact people moving to the area. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

“You are not expected to grow, if nothing changes,” Bowen said. “If you had more affordable housing you would see more growth.”

He said the older age groups of 65-74-year-olds and over 75-years-old are expected to grow which follows trends they are seeing across the country.

In some parts of the country there is growth in the 35-44 age group, but not in West Virginia. That group has affected housing needs, Bowen said.

“You don’t have that here and it is one of your smaller declines,” he said.

Most local renters, around two-thirds, make around $40,000 a year. Some are expected to leave the area while some will see their incomes grow.

Homeowner households average around $60,000 a year or more.

Bowen said the area still needs affordable housing as well as higher-end rental properties and properties available to buy in the next five years.

Many people who move into the area come in from Washington County, Ohio. Many of the people who leave Wood County are heading to Washington County.

There are 16,794 people who commute into Wood County from surrounding areas who make up 44.4 percent of the people employed in Wood County. There are 14,896 Wood County residents employed outside the county. Around three-fifths of Wood County residents commute less than 10 miles for work while over one-fifth commute more than 50 miles.

The demand for multifamily rental housing is very strong, Bowen said, adding that only 18 of the 2,273 surveyed rental units were vacant, resulting in a 99.2 percent occupancy rate. In a typical, well-balanced rental housing market, the occupancy rate is usually between 94 percent and 96 percent, he added.

Bowen said a business wanting to move to the area with around 30 employees to relocate would have a hard time finding available housing for those people.

“Everything is nearly full,” he said.

Home prices are continuing to climb and it is harder for first-time home buyers to buy a home.

Countywide, they found 117 homes listed as being available for sale, some under $200,000. Many of those are older houses built before 1950 so more money would be needed to renovate and bring them up to modern standards.

There were 11 homes in Vienna going and 23 others across the county going for $300,000 and above.

“You don’t have much housing inventory,” he said.

Bowen’s group found 120 potential development sites in the area. Of those 31 contain an existing building and 89 are vacant parcels. The available land amounts to 1,818 acres of land and over 415,000-square-feet of existing structure area. Of those properties, 34 have over 10 acres of land each that could be used to develop large residential projects that could include single-family homes or multi-family housing.

He has talked to economic development officials around the country and housing availability is one of the factors that determine if a company moves to an area.

“It is at the very top of that conversation,” he said. “Think about your housing stock when you think of economic opportunities.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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