Study: Myrtle Beach job growth not keeping up with housing development; leaders disagree

Updated: Aug. 1, 2019 at 7:11 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Apartment List released a study on Thursday that found new housing development lags behind job development in many major cities, however in the Myrtle Beach there is actually an oversupply of houses.

The study analyzed data from the Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 - 2018 for the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach area, which includes Horry and Brunswick Counties.

Chris Salviati, a housing economist with Apartment List who conducted the research, said the organization used the number of new jobs added to measure demand and the number of housing permits issued to measure supply.

Salviati said in a balanced market, a single, new housing unit should be built for every one or two jobs added.

The study found the Myrtle Beach area added .4 jobs for every permit issued, which suggests supply is outpacing demand.

According to the data, a little over 19,000 jobs were added from 2008-2018. Meanwhile, 50,864 permits were issued for new housing.

“In Myrtle Beach, specifically, we would describe it as building too much housing for the amount of job growth that is taking place there, so this is a little bit in contrast to what we are seeing in some other markets in the country," Salviati said. “Myrtle Beach is actually doing decent in terms of job growth in the last decade. It’s added a pretty solid number of jobs but has also been building quite a bit.”

Along the southeastern coast, the study found similar trends. Wilmington, Greenville, Hilton Head, Virginia Beach, all added less than one job permit, which is considered an oversupply in housing.

However, places like Charleston, Charlotte, Raleigh and Savannah are considered balanced markets with around one job added per permit.

Apartment List found across the country many smaller metros, like Myrtle Beach, to be building more new housing than needed when compared to job growth.

However, this study’s finding contrast with the recent Imagine 2040 study released earlier this week.

“There is a deficit of housing in Horry County, which can have a profound impact on sales prices and rental rising,” the study stated.

The study projected that 275,000 more people will live in Horry County by 2040. The Imagine 2040 study found 64,00 additional units will be needed if these projections are correct.

Diana Greene, the chief of administration at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said the reason for the discrepancies between the findings is not everyone moving to Myrtle Beach is looking for a job.

“You have to remember we are a huge retirement community as well, so, yes, you are going to see people move here and see the housing effected by that for jobs. You’re also going to see people moving here and that being effected by retirement,” Greene said.

Horry County has a higher percent of workforce over the age of 65 compared to the rest of the country.

Laura Crowther, the CEO of the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors, said the housing market in the area is actually pretty stable.

“Right now our market statistics are showing we have about a five month supply, which is a good steady supply of homes for the demand right now,” Crowther said.

Imagine 2040 study found Horry County’s economy is limited by an abundance of low paying positions and disability among individuals in the workforce age

“Horry County needs to focus economic growth on higher paid skilled jobs to help mitigate instability. In addition to maintaining low costs of living, focus on affordable housing is necessary. “

However, as growth continues, how and where development continues will have to be considered.

“We are going to need to make some decisions on good, sound, smart growth practices,” Crowther said.

One of those factors the area will need to consider when making future decision is ensuring there is enough affordable housing.

“Everybody is looking at that now, the balance of affordable housing as well as the value of real estate and I think that is true anywhere but in a tourism destination that is especially true, because a lot of times where you would like to put your affordable housing is in areas that makes it actually easy for people to get to their job and sometimes land value makes that very difficult,” Greene explained.

This was a challenge highlighted in the Imagine 2040 plan.

"From a pure quantitative standpoint, there are ample units in the region to house the population; however, high home values and rents in comparison to wages, result in much of the housing stock being out of the affordable range for large portions of the population. “ Imagine 2040 study stated.

The Horry County area is not alone is tackling this challenge.

Salviati explained large coastal metro areas like Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Miami that have an under supply of new housing.

“The areas that really aren’t building enough housing are really limited to a small set of these coastal cities that are growing really quickly and are kind of drivers of the national economy, so they are driving this national debate, but in many other parts of the country it isn’t that there is a lack of new housing as it is there is a lack of solid employment opportunities,” Salviati explained.

Improving employment opportunities is something local leaders have continually stressed.

As the area balances development and job creation, the Imagine 2040 study highlighted a need to add more high paying jobs to even out discrepancies between wages and rent prices.

“I think the biggest challenge we have in attracting jobs and businesses to this area is I-73,” Greene said. “I’ll be honest with you it is extremely hard from the economic development cooperation standpoint to get a lot of different types of businesses here, especially the larger ones if you don’t have that direct interstate access.”

The area also faces challenges of diversifying the work force, a fix the Imagine 2040 study suggested could be done by focusing on sports tourism, manufacturing, and agricultural opportunities.

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