By Richard Sullins | This story appeared in the August printed edition of The Rant Monthly

Families who have tried to purchase a home in Lee County in recent months are continuing to feel the effects of the housing bubble. The inventory of homes available remains at historic lows and prices for housing are climbing at the fastest rates in history, leaving many first-time home buyers unable to purchase the home of their dreams because houses in the $150K to $300K range are snatched up so quickly.

To help make home ownership a more attainable goal for individuals and families, Lee County Commissioners gave approval in July to a $200,000 revolving loan fund to Brick Capital Community Development Corporation to assist in the construction of more affordable housing in the county. During a public hearing, Brick Capital Executive Director Kerry Bashaw said that the fund will be added to other resources available in the community to allow the construction of more new homes at a faster rate. Currently, it can build up to three houses at a time, but this new loan will allow that to expand to four or five under construction simultaneously.

With new industries coming online during the next two years, the need for new housing and related support services is expected to become critical soon. Brick Capital’s Board President Margaret Murchison urged the commissioners to take quick action, saying, “I ask you to consider the working people who cannot afford to live in a $300,000 or a $400,000 home and allow them to come back to the communities they grew up in.”

Realtor Kelly Dubois of Adcock and Associates gave the commissioners an example of how dire the situation has become for some prospective homeowners.

“One of my clients is a very-qualified prospective homeowner who has made 32 offers on homes but doesn’t have the due diligence money that the sellers are asking in this market, sometimes up to $10,000 down,” she said. “Without that, this person doesn’t stand a chance of getting a bid noticed these days.”

Especially in desirable communities like Sanford, bidding wars for homes have become commonplace and many are being forced to pay thousands of dollars above asking prices in order to snag a home. A house may spend just hours on the market before dozens of bids are made and one is accepted in as little as 24 hours. Despite the tremendous demand for housing in the current market, though, the supply of available homes remains tight. Bashaw says that lumber costs continue to escalate and supply chains are still tight as a result of COVID, particularly with respect to appliances needed to furnish the house.

Several new homeowners who have received help from Brick Capital spoke to the commissioners during the public hearing about their positive experiences with the funder. One remarked Brick Capital “can and does provide families with a solid foundation for home ownership that I believe creates a ripple effect throughout the entire community.”

Brick Capital has been constructing homes this year along St. James Way and Paradise Way roads in Sanford near the J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School. With weather permitting, these houses are being completed in about 6 months’ time from start to finish.