MILTON — Charles Edsel and his firm, MarketGraphics Research Group, correctly called when the housing shortage would trigger a nationwide recession and the date the economy would recover six years later.
The well-known housing expert, especially in home building circles, stood before the five-member Santa Rosa County commission and told them they must develop 10,676 new homes by the end of 2024 to meet the demand of its population growth. Right now, the county is on pace to build 8,609.
Edsel said that means the county must approve and develop 154.7 housing lots per month over the next 69 months “starting now.” He said agencies must keep at least a 2-½-year supply of lots because “building permits just take time.”
“It requires planning and good flexibility to try to make things happen,” Edsel told commissioners. “We have to accommodate everybody, not just the rich or poor.”
A short supply drives up land prices and home costs putting them out of reach of many would-be residents.
County Commissioner Lane Lynchard said the projection helps the county improve its land development code and prepare for transportation and other infrastructure needs to accommodate future growth.
“It’s interesting to see the demand for housing in Santa Rosa County,” Lynchard said. “It further proves we’re a growing county with a quality of life people are looking for.”
Edsel, a National Association of Home Builders member, presented the forecast from the Home Builder Association of West Florida, which has provided an annual presentation to Santa Rosa County for three years.
“Santa Rosa is growing, growing, growing,” said David Peaden, executive director of the West Florida organization. “We try to help county commissioners stay educated about what is happening on the ground with housing-related issues.”
Edsel said he supports filling Santa Rosa County up with residents but worries about people who are older than 50. That age group has grown from 49,851 in 2011 to 65,122 today and is projected to reach 73,052 by 2023.
“This generates a real problem, if not addressed correctly,” he said. “It is very, very challenging.”
Edwin Henry, owner of Henry Company Homes and a past president of both the Florida and local home builder associations, said the 60 homes he developed in Heather’s Place in Navarre sold out in eight months with the last one completed by the end of January. He plans to build 140 more lots in the neighborhood beginning in July, and already has 20 home buyers on a waiting list.
“We can’t develop fast enough,” Henry said. “(Home buyers) are having a hard time finding listings.”