Using Housing Data to Attract Business and Talent

Housing is one of the hottest, most talked about topics in economic development. The reason? In order to attract new businesses to your community you need to have a talented workforce to draw from to fill those jobs, and that workforce needs a place to live.

Attracting talent and recruiting new employees is just part of the picture. Other reasons EDOs are involved in the housing conversation include:

  • EDOs are often the only county or community-wide organization that links the public and private sectors, which is critical in solving housing shortages and encouraging new construction.
  • EDOs are made up of teams of creative individuals with a knack for problem solving, which makes them a great resource in housing discussions.

A Regional Snapshot

Over the last decade, EDOs have had to add a new level of research capability to show prospects and existing businesses that their communities have a talent pipeline. The next wave of research will consist of proving the community not only has talent but also has housing available for that talent.

With that in mind, Creative EDC researched the housing availability, affordability, and growth in the region we primarily work. This includes MSAs in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Read the full report here.

Availability: The highest vacancy rates understandably show up in markets that are seen as resort or second home areas, as well as military bases. This is due in part to the unique housing status and transient nature of those markets. Of course areas seeing population growth are experiencing tight housing markets. Our research shows these are only projected to get worse, which provides an opportunity for markets with higher vacancy rates when recruiting businesses. Virginia, overall, has the tightest housing market with Washington DC’s vacancy rate at a very low 5.7%. North Carolina’s mountains and coast are the places where you will find housing.

Highest Vacancy Rates:

  • South Carolina: Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head
  • North Carolina: Wilmington, Asheville, New Bern
  • Virginia: Winchester, Kingsport, Charlottesville

Tightest Markets:

  • South Carolina: Greenville, Augusta, Columbia
  • North Carolina: Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte
  • Virginia: Washington, DC, Richmond

Affordability: For businesses looking to recruit young talent, good quality housing in an affordable price range is a key priority. South Carolina comes in at two ends of the affordability spectrum. It has the least affordable MSA, Hilton Head, but overall the most affordable.

Most affordable:

  • South Carolina: Spartanburg, Sumter
  • North Carolina: Hickory, Rocky Mount
  • Virginia: Kingsport, Lynchburg, Blacksburg

Least affordable:

  • South Carolina: Hilton Head
  • North Carolina: Wilmington, Asheville, Durham
  • Virginia: Charlottesville, Washington, DC

Growth: Where is housing being built? Of course, it makes sense that markets with the least vacancies are seeing new construction. But remember, new homes don’t appeal to everyone. Areas that aren’t seeing a lot of new construction can attract home buyers looking for older homes full of character. The MSAs from each state with the most new homes being built are Myrtle Beach, SC; Raleigh, NC; and Charlottesville, VA. It’s important to note that even though homes are being built as fast as builders can construct them in Raleigh, it has a tight market projected to get tighter. And similarly Richmond, VA, was the only MSA in the top five tight housing markets that didn’t make the top 10 list of projected greatest reduction in availability.

The Economic Development Advantage

Tracking and analyzing housing data is important for economic development programs hoping to attract new business, support existing businesses, attract talent, and improve retention. Once you’re armed with appropriate data, you can use it to show advantages over other locations by touting availability and affordability and its link to talent. You can also use this data to inform local land use and development policies, and support place-based economic development strategies.

Our full housing comparison report is posted on our website in the Free Resource Library. In it you will find data from more MSAs for each state and plenty of fodder to encourage strategic thinking on how housing data sets can help both talent and business development.

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