Sunday, July 30, 2006

Brunswick stew

Sales of beachfront property may have gone a little soft in Brunswick County, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to stew about. From 2000 to 2005, the population grew 21.9 percent (cf. 7.9 percent statewide). At the affordable housing summit that I participated in on Friday, I learned that the average price of new housing has topped $300,000.

Realtors have a lot to crow about: "With a wide variety of gated communities, quality health care and continuing education opportunities nearby, Brunswick county just could be the perfect place to live." Perfect, unless you make the median income of around $35,000 a year. There is more manufactured housing in Brunswick County, on the vulnerable coast, than just about anywhere in the state.

Signs of the dysfunctional housing economy are all around, even in the windows of fast-food franchises and other service-level employers: "Now hiring." Anecdotal evidence from the conference is that with the high cost of gas, workers commuting in are quitting their jobs. How many more people in comfortable houses who show up at Wal-Mart to get a new tire, only to find out that the auto repair department is closed for lack of workers, will it take to put some effort to solving the problem?

Friday's event was the second of three planned housing summits. Around 100 people, with lots of energy, were in the room. I wish them the best of luck.

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