The River Region's Wave of the Future!
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The tri-county saw a trend toward more renters, according to data from the Census released last week.
Montgomery, Elmore and Autauga counties saw increases in both owner- and renter-occupied housing from 2000 to 2010, but the number of households living in rental properties increased at a higher rate than that of homeowners.
Not surprising, said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo.
"The housing boom kind of peaked in the middle of the decade," he said. "The rental numbers really went up toward the end."
And now, as lenders are requiring more money down and better credit scores from those looking for mortgages, apartment construction has remained a strong segment of the economy.
"We've had a lot more multi-family housing (constructed) in Elmore and Autauga counties," said Jo Glenn of the Montgomery Area Realtors Association. "Before that, most of the apartments were in Montgomery."
Glenn agreed that in the wake of the housing market crash, some people may be renting instead of buying because obtaining a mortgage has become more difficult.
In Montgomery County, the number of owner-occupied housing units increased by 142 between 2000 and 2010. Renter-occupied units increased by 3,771.
Keivan Deravi, an economist and Auburn Montgomery professor, said that in Elmore and Autauga counties, where there was a limited supply of rental units in 2000, any increase during the 10 years could seem like it was large. He recommended looking at the actual number increase, not the percentage.
He attributed the increase in rental occupancy in the River Region to a couple of factors -- the substantial jump in the cost of housing in the earlier part of the decade that made housing less affordable for some markets, and job creation, including Hyundai Motor Manufacturing America and its suppliers.
Though all three River Region counties have seen population growth, Montgomery's growth, at about 2.6 percent, was much smaller than neighboring Autauga and Elmore counties at 24.9 and 20.3 percent, respectively.
"When the population began to disperse, there was a need for more apartments," Deravi said.
Elmore County Commissioner David Bowen said he and other leaders are "tickled pink" with the population growth, be it homeowners or renters.
"We've had growth in all areas of the county and we're satisfied with that," he said.
His district covers Wetumpka, where a 56-unit rental complex is now going up. He attributes the growth to people being drawn to Elmore County's recreation opportunities, low taxes and "smaller- town atmosphere than the big city."
Vitner believes the trend toward more people renting won't be one that changes anytime soon.
Vitner said home sales may improve late next year, but first, the glut of foreclosed homes needs to be cleared from the market. But even after that happens, he said the economic downturn will not soon be forgotten.
"I think this recession has scared people into thinking, 'I don't want to be tied to an area. If I need to move, I want to be able to move.'" Vitner said. "Clearly, that thinking is going to stick around as long as the unemployment rate is around 9 percent."
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