Hurricane, WV – January 24, 2024   Advantage Valley commissioned a 10 county regional housing study to assess the availability and affordability of housing across the spectrum of household incomes. With recent increased economic activity and announcements in the region, the study was commissioned to better understand the region’s evolving housing market and attract and encourage residential development to meet current and future housing needs.

According to Terrell Ellis, Advantage Valley’s President and CEO, “We intuitively knew that with the new jobs coming into the region, we will need to increase the supply of quality housing but we have not been able to exactly quantify the need. Now we know that there will be a large demand for thousands of new rental units and single family homes over the next five years. However, this study also really brought to light some important issues that we face right now with regard to affordability and accessibility.”

“The economic investment planned or underway in the Advantage Valley Region of West Virginia will contribute greatly to the demand for additional housing within a region that is already facing a significant housing shortage,” says Patrick Bowen, President of Bowen Research.  “These facts point to numerous residential development opportunities for both rental and for-sale housing.”

A broad cross section of the community was surveyed or interviewed to gain valuable insight into their perceptions of the housing market. Nearly 1,200 survey responses were received from community leaders, residents, employers, lenders, and developers. Some key findings included that nearly 30% of employers indicated that they have difficulty attracting or retaining employees due to housing issues. In addition, developers noted that lack of available sites, cost of labor, materials, and land, and land/zoning regulations are common barriers to residential development.

The study concluded that the recent economic development announcements and corresponding job growth will result in positive overall household growth for the region reversing a projected decline that had been forecast. From 2023-2028, the region has the potential to create 5,359 direct and 17,506 indirect jobs, resulting in 13,000 new households.

However, affordability for many households is a current challenge. There is an imbalance between wages paid and housing affordability in the rental and single family home markets. 49% of the top 35 occupations in the region do not have sufficient median wages to afford the typical rental at the respective Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom unit; and 79 % of the top occupations in the region cannot afford a typical for-sale home.

The projected growth in the number of new jobs and households will continue to affect what is already a critically low housing supply.  The multi-family rental vacancy rate is far below healthy market conditions.  A vacancy rate of only 1%, or 118 out of 10,000 units, indicates a significant need for additional multi-family rental housing for all income levels. A healthy market vacancy rate is 4%.

The region’s inventory of for-sale housing is also extremely low and dated, and housing prices are increasing. On average, available homes in the region were built in 1966. There were only 621 homes available for purchase (as of October 2023) representing only 0.4% of the housing stock; and prices have increased 16% from 2020-2023.

When accounting for new jobs and families, the region will need several thousand new units of rental and for sale housing to meet the demand generated by new households coming into the region including nearly 11,000 rental units and 20,000 single family homes over the five-year projection period. The largest need for rental units will be for households with incomes of $50,000 or less; and the largest need for single family homes will be in the $300,000 range.

According to Bowen, “While the region faces many challenges with housing, particularly with the lack of available housing and clear pent-up demand for more affordable workforce housing, these challenges also represent significant housing development opportunities for the region.  Combining these residential development opportunities with the substantial economic investment underway and planned, the Advantage Valley Region is poised to experience unprecedented growth.  The housing needs assessment will serve as a great tool for strategic planning on a local and regional level, and can be used to attract and encourage much needed residential development across the region.”

“Armed with this information, Advantage Valley will be working within the region to educate community leaders about the findings, address barriers identified in the report that may inhibit new development, and promote available opportunities for new housing,” said Ellis.

The study includes not only regional findings, but also provides detailed data on each of the 10 counties including Boone, Cabell, Clay, Kanawha, Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, Putnam, Roane and Wayne. The regional and county reports can be accessed on the Advantage Valley website at https://advantagevalley.com/2023-housing-study/

Bowen National Research, a nationally recognized real estate market analysis firm completed the study.  Support for the study was provided by The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, American Electric Power, Huntington Bank, Kanawha, Cabell, and Mason Counties, Protec, and the Jackson County and Roane County Development Authorities.

###

Advantage Valley is a nonprofit regional economic development organization with a mission to grow economic opportunity for all residents of the Charleston-Huntington Metro area by increasing investments in the region, leveraging resources, and building collaboration among community stakeholders.