KINGSPORT – A housing boom is upon Kingsport.
More than 2,500 homes are in the process of being built, a number that is more than four times higher than last year at almost this same time.
Last year, the city recorded 625 homes in progress.
Those numbers have left city officials “pleasantly surprised.”
“At the time, we knew there was a lot coming down the pipeline,” said John Rose, economic development director for the city of Kingsport. “But we didn’t know it was four times.”
Some of the development has already started, such as the new WestGate subdivision being built by D.R. Horton. Some is yet to come, such as the new development at Brickyard Park, now called Brickyard Village.
The boom has come as local officials say there has been pent up demand for housing since the Great Recession in 2008 and the changing habits of consumers who underwent changing mindsets due to the pandemic.
The city has tools in place to help lure developers and those tools are now starting to pay dividends, officials said. For example, the city has material agreements that act as a reimbursement program for placing in utilities.
Rose also said the quality of life and the excellent city school system have played an impact. The housing boom is an example of supply and demand.
“There was a lot of demand for homes that weren’t just getting produced,” Rose said.
Kingsport Vice Mayor Collette George sees it first-hand.
George, a realtor for Blue Ridge Properties, Inc., said there is almost no inventory for housing right now in Kingsport.
“We have 44 houses on the market and that’s it,” she said.
George said realtors have waiting lists that are pages long right now of people wanting to find homes.
“I have cash buyers who can’t find a home here,” she said.
She said there are multiple reasons for the housing shortage right now. It’s the lack of inventory on the market right now from not enough developers that have built homes. It’s also the buying habits of a changing public since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Some are trying to move away from areas that they see as more restrictive with rules. Others are younger people who found themselves quarantined in apartments and now want to get out.
Many have found jobs online and have no restrictions on where they need to live anymore.
“All these people can live where they want,” George said.
It’s led to some real estate transactions that George has never seen within her 30 years of real estate. She has seen people buy homes without even stepping foot on the property.
“We’re having sight unseen in Kingsport,” George said.
She said some are buying without even stepping foot into Kingsport. She said she knows of one young couple who moved from Arizona who said they had “driven through” northeast Tennessee before.
“We are so desperate for housing here,” George said. “I have never seen anything like it.”
She said the city is trying what it can to try and entice builders and developers to get to the city. There are still hangups, though, as the supply chain continues to be entangled.
“I’m thrilled to have this much going on,” she said. “You can’t build it quick enough.”
Mayor Pat Shull said there are challenges in putting together parcels within city limits.
The city continues to try to push infill, though, to help develop existing lots.
“We are 53 miles geographically, so there appears to be some more possibilities,” Shull said. “We are also seeing considerable innovation like remodeling downtown buildings into home. I’ve noted also that some of our builders have found opportunities for going into existing neighborhoods and remodeling/updating homes.”
He said a significant part of the city helping with housing is streamlining the planning process and making the process more user friendly.
“I’m not sure what our ‘natural limit’ of population is but we apparently have not reached it,” Shull said.