ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The rising price of rent for Big country Residents tells a story of supply and demand. It’s a story put into words by Brenda Huffity, of Weidner Apartment homes, at the city’s Planning and Zoning meeting at the beginning of June.
“Abilene is currently 97% occupied in apartments and 99% leased,” Huffity informed. “There is a waiting list for housing at this point.”
All across the social scale, home buyers and renters seem to be at an Impasse.
“[It’s] because of the home prices and material costs to build homes. So, a lot of folks are delaying home purchases and getting into the rental market,” said Gene Reed, CEO of Abilene Housing Authority.
This influx of residents to rental properties is what has driven prices upwards, and caused bleak competition for long-time renters.
“We have almost 3,000 people on our waiting list right now,” Reed said, “waiting to get into an affordable housing program.”
But it’s not just the affordable housing market that is feeling the sting.
“A one bedroom [apartment] is $1,122, a two bedroom $1,283 and a three bedroom $1,392,” Huffity listed.
In the eyes of developers like Weidner, the solution is clear: More housing is needed.
“If we don’t build more supply, we can’t handle the demand,” said Huffity.
One of Weidner’s proposed complexes would be built just off Memorial drive, sharing the road with a number of single-family neighborhoods. It’s land presently zoned for commercial use.
“Abilene does need more housing, I agree,” said Jimmy Boulware, resident at Legacy Village. “That area is zoned for retail and commercial use, not multi-family.”
Boulware and a coalition of nearby neighborhoods showed up to the June 7 meeting in full force, requesting that the land may remain commercial.
“If they do want to change the zoning to multi family, make it single-family townhouse to where it blends in,” Boulware thought, “why come in and put a sore thumb in the middle of a nice neighborhood?”
Privacy, safety, and road infrastructure seem to the the main issues residents are taking with the proposal; fearing that a two or three-story building would put apartments at eye level with their back yards. Residents also expressed concern with the lack of traffic control, crosswalks and overall walkability on Memorial drive.
“If I knew that they were going to propose to build a multi-story apartment complex behind my house I wouldn’t have bought this house,” said Boulware.
The vote to move forward with rezoning the land passed five to seven, and will now go before City Council for a final decision. Though Planning and Zoning did stipulate that barriers should be added on the North and Memorial Drive sides of the complex, and building height not exceed two stories.
The demand for apartments in Abilene, however, is expected to worsen as the city’s growing workforce look for a place to call home.
“A lot of experts say we may be here for another couple of years,” added Reed.