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Texas: Oil downturn bad for economy, good for housing

SNYDER – House-hunters in Scurry County might finally have a chance now.

A downturn in the oil market has not exactly opened up a flood of options in Snyder’s otherwise-tight housing market, but has arguably made the house- or apartment-search slightly less frustrating.

The town’s La Posada apartment complex, for instance, finally has a unit available for rent. One vacancy might not sound like many, but it’s one more than the complex typically has, said spokeswoman Linda Sweet.

“We’re usually full,” she said.

Realtor Abel DeLoera can relate. A familiar name in Snyder’s rental-housing market, for a while he grew accustomed to having to turn down customers. Now, he has at least a half-dozen openings.

“I would say this is the first month I’ve experienced this — that I’ve had this many vacancies,” he said.

Some of his tenants left unexpectedly with broken leases, he said.

Like any other industry with a heavier demand than supply, Snyder housing is not cheap.

DeLoera’s three-bedroom mobile homes, for instance, rent for $1,200 a month. In comparison, rental prices for the same size mobile homes in Lubbock are usually about half that amount, according to a few classified ads and phone calls to mobile home parks.

Whether Snyder’s rental prices will drop is too early to tell — but certainly possible — DeLoera said.

“I suspect that we’re gonna have more vacancies, and rent prices will have to come down,” he said.

Until recently, the town’s housing availability dropped as its job market boomed. Some laborers have been looking for housing for months or longer, Bill Lavers said.

Related: Texas housing up in the air over oil prices

Lavers, director of the Economic Development Corp. of Snyder, estimates 47 percent of Snyder workers commute from homes in other towns. Many would like to move closer to their jobs, he said, but can’t find a place to live. He’s concerned some folks have even had to turn down job offers because they couldn’t find homes within drivable distances.

“I think the thing that holds us back from growing is housing — and affordable housing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good the job is if you can’t find housing.”

Securing more housing has been a main goal of Lavers and Snyder’s other business leaders. They’re in various development stages with three apartment complex projects that range in size from 85 to 450 units.

“In spite of the oil and the downturn, we’re continuing to grow,” Lavers said. “All our developers are hanging on.”

After all, economically, Snyder is still no Detroit. Scurry County’s jobless rate jumped from 2.4 percent in December to 3.1 in January, a percentage still well below the state and national averages.

Located on the edge of the Permian Basin and the Cline Shale, the county still produces about 40,000 barrels of oil each day, Lavers said.

Meanwhile, progress is moving in another home project with a unique funding source — Scurry County.

In April, commissioners agreed unanimously to loan $2.75 million to the Texas Housing Foundation to develop a new 127-unit apartment complex. At 2 percent interest, the loan will garner a higher return than the alternative of keeping the money in a savings account, County Judge Ricky Fritz said.

“Something needed to be done, and there was no one here to do that investment,” he said. “Normally, you would want the private sector to do that, but there was no private sector.”

Plans are to designate half the units in the project as housing for government employees, which supporters hope will help recruit more teachers and guards to the county’s short-staffed schools and prison.

The other half are income-based. Their tenants cannot earn more than 80 percent of the average income for Snyder residents and must pass background checks and drug tests, Fritz said.

At Maverick West on the northwest edge of town, 26 of the subdivision’s 91 lots have been sold, and two contain under-construction houses.

“It’s been a long process, but we’ve finally completed the process, and now we’re building homes,” Fritz said.

Population: 10,653

Unemployment: 3.4 percent

Main industries: Oil and gas, wind energy

 

This article was written by Josie Musico from Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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