When the Home Builders speak, the county should listen



The Home Builders Association turned out in numbers to Monday’s County Commission meeting wearing their red HBA shirts. The Home Builders Association of West Florida is a membership driven networking and advocacy group focused on the needs of the building and development industry and related business in Escambia and Santa Rosa County.

The discussion centered around whether Santa Rosa County should issue a moratorium on building new homes. Some residents are calling for such saying our infrastructure should be fixed prior to building more homes.

When we look at Dr. Rick Harper’s state of real estate for 2018, we see that inventory is dwindling. In fact, he says inventory in April 2018 was down nearly 57 percent from the 2010 average, which pushed existing home sales down. And – that pushed home prices up. On the other hand, new home sales hit their highest level since 2005.

So, scarcity of inventory will further push housing costs up. A moratorium on building will mean no new home sales, which is the bulk of what is being sold now. When the housing prices go up, there is no longer affordable housing for middle-class residents. There is nothing affordable for our military which makes up one of the largest population demographics of Navarre.

When we look further down the road, so to speak, it means people don’t buy houses in Navarre because there is nothing to buy or what is on the market is unaffordable. It will push those people east and west. The realtors will no longer be able to afford to be in business here – because there will be no business. Real Estate is one of the top three largest most impactful industries in Navarre, second only to tourism.

When we impose a moratorium on building, the construction workers, plumbers, concrete layers, home inspectors, HVAC companies, landscapers and realtors no longer make enough money to survive. They no longer make enough money to put back in to our economy – no discretionary income to spend at our small businesses and restaurants. Further down the road, our shops, boutiques and restaurants will feel the squeeze from plummeting sales. Soon after, they will have to close.

Under a moratorium, the county will begin to feel their budget tighten because sales tax is down, ad valorem taxes are down and inspection fees are gone. They will be forced to raise the millage rate on existing properties to make up for the losses. As millage rates rise, homeowners will no longer be able to comfortably afford property taxes and they could decide to sell their home and move to a more affordable location. In the depressed community, the home may sit on the market for a long time before a buyer comes along willing to pay the inflated price of the house that comes along with low inventory.

In the meantime, the county’s budget will have dropped significantly and there will be no money to fix the infrastructure. The very reason behind the call for a moratorium will have created a situation that cannot be solved until the builders are allowed to build again.

No other industry, except tourism, can financially impact our community more than real estate and development. Why isn’t the Navarre Area Board of Realtors taking on this issue? Where is their advocacy? This is at the heart of their industry – why aren’t they fighting for their realtors?

We are glad the Home Builders Association took up the torch. Because when they show up like they did Monday – people listen. Thank you Home Builders Association.

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