Housing market back from recession

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

Knox County’s residential housing market, the engine that drives the local economy, has bounced back from a long string of tough years, and those involved in building, regulating and counting the money are happy to put the recession years in the rear view mirror.

“We’re really pleased to see single family home construction recover so well,” said Dwight Van de Vate, Knox County’s senior director of engineering and public works. “Pre-recession, we would sometimes see almost 250 homes a month – clearly unsustainable. Then we cratered to a low of 35 one month. It’s been a wild ride. Now we have robust, fairly stable development, at levels we can manage. It’s a good place to be.”

Developer Scott Davis agrees.

“In the last 13 months, we’ve seen a very significant turnaround in the housing market. For six or seven years, we didn’t do anything but fight the banks, and now we’re putting lots on the ground at the 2006 rate.”

Davis remembers 2006 as the last good year before the bubble burst.

“The housing boom we saw in 2007 was clearly not sustainable,” said Davis, who owns Eagle Bend Development. “Now, we’re growing at a nice, healthy rate and our economy has rebounded very well – Knox County’s population has grown by 60,000 in recent years. There’s lots of stuff coming back toward the downtown area, and we’ve got six subdivisions working, plus a 248-unit apartment complex off Hardin Valley Road.”

County Finance Director Chris Caldwell isn’t prone to enthusiasm, but admits he likes the trends he’s seeing in his budget numbers.

“It’s good to see the growth in the revenue that appears in our general fund. It’s an indicator that tells us our economy is growing and headed in the right direction and that alleviates pressure on the budget.”

In fiscal year 2015, for example, Caldwell said revenue from building permit fees came in at 125 percent of budget projections.

“We expected $925,000 and received $1.1 million, and it will be better this year. Through the month of April, we are at $994,000, and I can tell you that a year ago, we were at $879,000. We’re up 13 percent over April of last year.”

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