RECAP: North Alabama Housing Solutions Summit

This morning, the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORSĀ® joined with the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association and Bancorp South to hold the North Alabama Housing Solutions Summit: Attainability & Availability for our Growing Economy, bringing together industry leaders and city officials to discuss solutions to the current housing inventory challenges in North Alabama.
Ken Smith, Senior Director of Research and Information Services for the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the event, providing an overview of the area’s explosive job and population growth and how that has affected homebuying and housing inventory in the Tennessee Valley. While Huntsville saw 19% growth in the past ten years, surrounding areas have either kept that pace or expanded even faster, as the City of Madison gew 32.6% in that same time frame, Smith said.
Next, Jeff Thompson with the UAH Center for Management & Economics Research presented a special economic report created in conjunction with HAAR and ValleyMLS. Thompson’s main takeaway was the bottom line that “We’ve got to build our way out of this.”
Find Smith’s and Thompson’s presentations at the bottom of this article.

“Bottom Line: We’ve got to build our way out of this.”

Wrapping up the first part of the morning, Shane Davis with the City of Huntsville, outlined the strategic approach local officials are taking toward job growth to effectively and responsibly manage smart growth in Madison County. Davis also underscored the importance of making homes available at a wide range of price points to ensure no one group of residents gets left behind and companies moving to the area can effectively recruit a workforce they need to succeed.
Edsel Charles of Market Research Group provided the Summit’s keynote presentation, taking a deep dive into economic indicators of where the North Alabama housing market will be in the comingĀ  years. Charles reported that, nationally, 700,000 fewer houses were built in 2020 than in 2005 and stressed the need for developed lots. By 2026, Charles said, the industry would need a 30-month supply of homes.
Next, HAAR CEO Josh McFall moderated a panel of industry experts including HMBCA Executive Officer Barry Oxley, HAAR President Zelda Friedman, Jeff Enfinger of Enfinger Development, Mark Harris of Mark Harris homes, and Scott Dickey of BancorpSouth.
The panel discussion brought unique perspectives together from multiple industries that drive and maintain the housing market locally. Labor, natural economic indicators, and material delays were identified as obstacles to the area’s inventory challenges.Ā  Presenters focused on solutions, however, citing HMBCA’s North Alabama Homebuilding Academy and public policy as solutions to removing those obstacles.
Enfinger zeroed in on the need for entry-level homes before 1400 square feet to become available, and that “huge demand” in lower price points aren’t being satisfied right now.

“I’ve never seen a problem where people in our community said ‘that’s someone else’s problem’.”

As the panel of industry leaders concluded, attendees were asked to provide their own ideas and solutions. Among those solutions discussed were making available more mixed use land, opening up more land to sell, offering smaller lots, and providing incentives that favor owner occupied properties over out-of-state investor, among many others. These ideas were collected and will be discussed at HAAR’s next Housing Attainability workgroup regular meeting.
The “all-in-this-together” spirit of attendees and hosts from myriad industries pulling together to provide solutions that benefit the community as a whole was exemplified in earlier remarks from the City of Huntsville’s Shane Davis, “I’ve never seen a problem where people in our community didn’t join together and say ‘that’s someone else’s problem’. We work together and we solve problems.”
HAAR thanks its partners in staging this critical event for our community, BancorpSouth and the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association.

Economic Factors Affecting the Local Housing Market

Ken Smith, Huntsville Madison Co Chamber of Commerce

Trends in Madison County Housing, 2010-2021

Jeff Thompson, UAH Center for Management & Econ Research