Attractive housing ‘missing link’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

“It’s a great place to live, but a horrible place to move to.”

I bristled when I heard those words from a speaker at the Covington Board of Realtors meeting Wednesday. I didn’t just bristle quietly: I offered to help him improve his sales pitch.

He’s a transplant, recently relocated here by his company, which plans to bring more employees here in the near future.

And already, he knows that finding short-term living quarters will be a problem. The first wave, management, will likely want mid-range rental homes. Most are former military guys, accustomed to moving and finding an abundance of rental houses.

The speaker said when he left Warner Robins, his four bedroom, 2-bath house with a pool rented for $800.

Some say that’s just not available here; others say the markets where those deals are available must be more depressed (or perhaps recessed) than ours.

Another wave of employees, which he referred to as “single guys or geographic bachelors,” who’ll do contract work, will be interested in accommodations like an extended stay motel; i.e., they’ll be looking for a bed and a kitchenette.

The guest speaker wasn’t hopeful about finding accommodations for any of them. And despite their best efforts, the Realtors can’t deliver exactly what this group needs. Most of the rental houses available are older homes without the modern updates many people new to the market seek, they said.

The Realtors reminded the speaker that an effort is under way to build upscale apartments on Debro Hill. The public/private partnership in which the City of Andalusia agreed to participate late year would produce Pinnacle Place, a 150-apartment complex with 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units, as well as a pool, exercise facility and community facility.

And after the speaker left, one Realtor reminded others to remember the message when they hear criticism about the city’s involvement in Pinnacle Place.

Yes, I bristled at the speaker’s comments. Like most of you, I love where we live and don’t want people to be critical of our community. But I also have been the person sleeping in a hotel, living on frozen dinners and searching for a home.

One thing hindering new construction is that the Census estimated 600 empty homes in Andalusia. When financial institutions see that, they aren’t excited about investing. But when newcomers start looking for a place to live, the Census looks very wrong.

High-end rental homes aren’t an investment risk many are willing to take. But somewhere between “old, not updated” and “perfect, big new home” is a compromise we desperately need to reach.