MOUNT VERNON — Population and housing have a close relationship with economic growth and if Knox County wants to stay competitive economically, it needs more housing to attract qualified workers.

A recent study conducted by Kenyon College senior economics major Brian Sellers reveals demand has outpaced the supply of homes in Knox County. The study was presented at the Knox County Area Development Foundation (ADF) annual meeting Jan. 25.

The county’s projected population growth lags behind neighboring counties and there’s a need for improved housing stock at all income levels. Knox County’s population grew 1.6% from 2010 to 2018. That number lags behind neighboring Licking County (5.6%) and Franklin County (4.4%).

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission projects that 73,000 residents will call Knox County home in 2040. That’s up from 61,000 estimated in 2018.

Sellers conducted his research last year under the guidance of Kenyon professor Katie Black as part of an internship with the ADF. Sellers’ research included culling statistics from the MLS, multiple listing service and other demographic data sources. He told the ADF board that currently in Knox County, “Homes are flying off the market.”

Newer homes with two to four bedrooms, a garage, and close proximity to bodies of water are the most popular.

“I believe that inventory will continue to tighten and prices will continue to rise in the short and medium terms,” local realtor John Yoder of Key Realty said. “A big driver is interest rates which are likely to stay low in the short and medium term.”

The average home price for the Central Ohio region in 2020 was up 10.1% to $265,825 and the average home price in Knox County was up 10.4% to $217,932 compared to 2019.

Nationwide, there were 1.07 million homes for sale at the end of December, down 23% from December 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the current sales pace, there was a 1.9-month supply of homes on the market at the end of December, a record low.

Currently, Knox County has about a two-week supply of available homes. New home starts dropped to unheard of levels from 2008 through 2014.

“We are only now getting back to long-term average levels. We have a lot of ground to make up,” Yoder said.

An audit of developable land within the City of Mount Vernon revealed builders could add 3,277 homes within the city limits with minimal to no rezoning. Over the last three years only two new homes were built in Mount Vernon. Currently, there are just 13 homes actively for sale in Knox County.

“We have developable land in Knox County, and an enormous need for new housing,” said Sam Filkins, ADF Vice President and Administrator of the Knox County Land Bank. “The final piece of the puzzle is motivating developers and builders.

“Our goal is to meet with all of these stakeholders to see how we can move the needle to address this county-wide housing shortage for all income levels.”

Economic developers agree the benefits of increased access to quality, affordable housing are greater tax generation, creation of jobs, opportunities for economic development, increased job retention and productivity, and the ability to address inequality.”

The Knox County Area Development Foundation is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to help create and retain more jobs of a high quality that keep residents financially secure, match good employers to job-ready workers and to advance efforts to support livable communities.

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For more information contact Marty Trese, ADF Administrative Specialist or 740-393-3806.

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