Oklahoma Housing Crisis Continues

Oklahoma Housing Crisis Continues

May 23, 2016

Story provided by Oklahoma Horizon

Owning a home is the anchor of the American Dream. But for some, it can be out of reach. That's where affordable housing comes in, but despite government incentives, it can be out of reach. That's where affordable housing comes in, but despite government incentives, it can be difficult to attract developers to rural areas. 

Oklahoma is facing something of a housing crisis, and it’s mainly affecting those who need a home the most. 

"Well, we know we need over 66,000 units of affordable housing by 2020," says Andrea Frymire from the Oklahoma Commission of Affordable Housing.  "About two-thirds of those would be for home ownership and then roughly a third of that would be needed for rentals. And that’s in the next five years, so it’s a lot."

With such a big pool of prospective homeowners, you’d think homebuilders would be all over this, right? Well, not exactly. And it all comes down to the three most important things about real estate: location, location, location.

"There’s a difference between need and demand," says Dennis Shockley who serves as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency. "I remember the mayor of Holdenville many years ago telling me he said, 'You know, we have a huge need for housing in Holdenville, Oklahoma, but there’s not any demand for it!' And that’s why developers won’t go out into very rural areas and build unless they have a contract to build."

And let’s not forget the most important things about business: money.

"Things like the low-income housing tax credit that OHFA administers," says Frymire, "and then the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act that was passed in 2014, that gave us some state funds, those are the monies that we use to build affordable housing throughout the state, and it’s limited, we just don’t have enough money to build a lot of units."

So, with most of the housing needed in far flung rural areas, and the fact that there’s not much money in it for developers, it doesn’t seem that this crisis is going to find a solution in time. But look hard enough, and you’ll find some homebuilders bucking the trend. 

Lance Windel is familiar with this housing crisis. "I was working with a lady, we had bought some rental houses together, and she came to me one day and she said, 'Hey you know those apartments over there that are low-income housing, you can do that exact same housing but you can build single-family houses with that same financial stream.' And I said, 'Well I build single family houses, and I manage single family houses, that sounds perfect.'"

Lance Windel is the head of LW Development, and he won’t deny that filling these housing needs is a challenge.  He continues, "Building in rural Oklahoma is difficult. One of the things we see a lot in rural Oklahoma especially when the price of oil is up is that, all of those folks that would normally be your plumber, your framer, your electrician, has got a good job in the oilfield. To build at the speed and the price that I need to build at to be successful, the local trades just can’t support it, and it’s not their fault."

But the way he sees it, he still has to get the job done.

Windel concludes, "You go into a part of, let’s take Ardmore, Oklahoma, the east part of town, it’s not the nicer part of town. But a lot of times there are a lot of vacant lots over there, and those vacant lots are not doing anyone any favors, but you know what they already have? They already have a concrete or asphalt street in front of ‘em, there’s already a sewer line, there’s already a water line. So instead of us tearing up a, you know, a farmer’s field and building new houses, we’re going to places that it is standing by ready for a house to be built."

So while this anchor of the American dream might be running into the pillars of capitalism, it’s the hope of those at the Housing Summit, that affordable housing can be seen as an investment in the future of a town’s economy, and its people.


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