First meeting of Rome’s special housing committee preludes a crisis — rentals and home ownership — and initial steps toward fixing it.

First meeting of Rome’s special housing committee preludes a crisis — rentals and home ownership — and initial steps toward fixing it.

Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis, right, chairs the special housing committee meeting on Monday. To her right,  at the table, was Taylor Ritchie of the Rome Floyd Chamber who told of her own issues in finding housing when returning to Rome in 2017.

 

The first meeting of Rome’s Special Committee on Housing convened Monday in the Sam King Room — and probably could have lasted 100 hours rather than 100 packed minutes. The committee of community leaders — charged with identifying gaps in housing sales and rentals, and suggesting possible solutions and incentives to spur new construction — heard concern after concern, from immediate needs to industrial recruitment.

Chaired by Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis, the meeting was joined — in person or via Zoom — by bankers, Realtors, developers and others. The common theme was availability in general, especially at an affordable rate. Panelists shared some of their own concerns, from struggles to find a place to live (especially with pets) to a potential shortage of both housing and areas to develop multifamily. High demand areas were highlighted, especially in downtown Rome and surrounding neighborhoods. Access to the community’s growing trail network also is becoming a demand.

Mayor Craig McDaniel, also a Realtor at Toles, Temple & Wright, pushed for the committee’s creation, citing ongoing concerns and the potential impact on recruiting new development if there isn’t housing for employees. He labeled it “work force housing.

“We don’t have the apartments,” McDaniel said, adding, “We certainly don’t have the single-family housing.”

He cited the latest housing data that showed 104 homes available for sale as of Monday in Rome/Floyd County. Of those, 56 were priced at $250,000 to more than $1 million. Another 14 were listed at $150,000 to $249,999.

McDaniel cited Rome City Schools’ recent example of securing four apartments for new employees as part of a recruiting incentive.

Using charts, Davis outlined household incomes in the community — half of which are under $40,000 — and what folks can afford both as rentals and purchase.

One key issue has been the community’s uniform development plan. Efforts already are under way to revise it, a process that could take a year. As Commissioner Mark Cochran has said, the development code is “anti-growth” in its current format. One of the points made Monday was that waiting for the code to be rewritten will take a year and the community can’t wait 12 months to respond. Several asks for ways to perhaps override the code during the rewrite. Said Davis of the ULDC: “It was designed to stop growth.”

Another key point was the feedback from the recent housing summit featuring Frank Norton Jr. of Gainesville’s Norton Agency. Norton is a longtime expert on housing and real estate trends. Several panelists talked about some of the trends Norton mentioned and incorporating them into this market.

Davis asked the committee to review several supplemental reports and recommendations from other markets “for us to explore.”  The next meeting will focus on recommendations to the City Commission on next steps.

The most recent stats from the Greater Rome Board of Realtors, comparing February trends to a year ago and to January.

 


The official minutes from the meeting:

COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
Wendy Davis (Chair), Bill Temple, Ryan Earnest, Walt Busby, Hannah Phillips, Taylor Ritchie, Sherrell
Smith, Brian Spears, Brooks Mathis, Devon Smyth, Harry Brock, Carol Hatch (Zoom), Maia Santamaria
(Zoom)
OTHERS PRESENT:
Craig McDaniel, Mark Cochran, Bonny Askew, Sundai Stevenson (Zoom), Jamie Doss (Zoom), Sammy
Rich, Joe Smith, Doug Walker, Toni Rhinehart (Zoom), Missy Kendrick (Zoom), Thom Holt (Zoom) , John
Druckenmiller (Zoom)
Chairperson Wendy Davis welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the committee and explained that
this committee had been tasked with investigating issues related to the housing shortage in the area
and coming up with potential solutions for incentivizing housing development. Davis then asked each of
the committee members to share how they are involved in the housing industry and some of their
personal insights and experiences with the housing shortage issue. Some issues mentioned included:
• Issues finding rentals for people who are own pets
• Few homes available in the $100,000-$140,000 range
• Shortage of rental homes and units
• Workers driving in to Rome for new jobs but have to live out of town because of lack of housing
• High demand for housing near downtown – no places to build
• Difficulty for builders to provide housing under $200,000 price point because of soaring
materials costs
• Lack of affordable, accessible housing
• Lack of transitional housing for homeless
• Infill lots near downtown that cannot be utilized due to ULDC restrictions
• Lengthy waiting list for public housing units and inability to find landlords that are willing to
accept vouchers
Davis discussed that currently there are 108 single family homes for sale as of 3/24/2021 in Floyd
County with only 55 of those between the $100,000-$299,000 price point. In terms of rental units, Floyd
County has a total of 10 rental houses available as of today. P a g e 2 | 2
Davis also discussed wage and home/rent affordability utilizing 30% of gross income as the basis for
housing costs. A handout, crafted by Mark Cochran, showed that at our city’s median household income
of $38,480, an individual would have a housing budget of between $962 and $1,026 per month. Bill
Temple asked if Davis could find out the percentages of the population of the city and the county that
fall into each of the income categories. He stated that it would help for investors to see the percentage
of population that were underserved at all price points.
Davis then discussed the current Unified Land Development Code (ULDC) which was adopted in 2001
and updated in 2019. She reviewed a partial list of some possible upgrades that would allow more
growth and promote increased housing options. It was also discussed that it would take approximately a
year to complete the rewrite of the ULDC. Walt Busby mentioned that it is his desire is for the city to
create an interim group or committee for builders and developers, city department heads and other city
staff members to refer to regarding questions about projects that may be otherwise stymied by the
current ULDC until the new language is written. Temple agreed and stated that they are not wanting to
circumvent the ULDC but to have somewhere to be heard and not immediately shut down because of
the “no-growth” nature of the current document. Sammy Rich mentioned that an amendment to the
ULDC would be helpful in this interim time and that is something that is already being discussed and
considered. Commissioner Bonny Askew suggested that some of our department heads be invited to
this interim committee so that they can hear the kinds of questions that are of concern.
A handout of Statesboro, Georgia’s Residential Subdivision Incentive Program was provided to all. Davis
asked that everyone take the time to read this document at home to see how this program has been
developed and how the point system that it utilizes works. She stated that she thinks that this example
would be a great starting point for ideas about building incentives. Temple reminded that knowing the
percentages of the population at each level of housing needs would be helpful before discussing
building incentives. Davis will gather this information and provide it to the committee members. She
mentioned that in the next meeting, the group should start working towards providing specific
recommendations for solutions that the commission can adopt to address the housing needs.
Chairperson Davis adjourned the meeting at 6:05 p.m

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