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Multifamily Housing is Needed for Fast-Growing Northeast Florida

By Nicole Padgett, Chief Administration Officer, Summit Contracting Group

Corporate relocation executives will tell you that having affordable workforce housing available is critical to making expansion decisions.

According to Real Data, market demand in Jacksonville is at record level with an occupancy rate of 96.5 percent — the highest in a decade.

As of August, there were 8,200 units in the pipeline. While some may see this as an example of sprawl, we should all see this as an opportunity to elevate Jacksonville’s status as a city on the verge of something big. It is a mentality of “If we build it, they will come.”

More corporations are seeing the value in expanding operations to a city like Jacksonville — our infrastructure, an eager and educated work force, affordability and cultural offerings — are all attractive assets of a destination.

Amazon, SoFi and Fidelity National Financial Services are just a few of the companies that have recently seen the value in our city as expansion hubs.

Multifamily Executive recently ranked Jacksonville No. 5 on its list of “Top Under-the-Radar Markets for Development.” This is exciting news for Jacksonville because these are all signs of a city on the rise.

While all of this growth is good news for residents, it’s important to be mindful that we’re also attracting new residents. Younger generations are excited by our beaches, educational opportunities and diverse cultural attractions.

As of 2018, the median age in Jacksonville was 35.8, youngest of all major cities in Florida. But no matter how desirable our city is, if we don’t have affordable housing available for them, we essentially turn them away.

Baby Boomers and retirees are also seeing Jacksonville as a desirable hometown. The retiree-age population in Northeast Florida is expected to outpace other age groups, more than doubling in our five-county area over the next 20 years.

While affordability is also important for this demographic, the lifestyle options offered by multifamily housing — from social and recreational activities to lack of maintenance/upkeep — are also attractive.

Demographic and lifestyle issues aside, the case for multifamily housing in Jacksonville also fills an important economic need. The investment opportunities associated with multifamily housing in general, and Jacksonville in particular, are proving too compelling to ignore.

Institutional investors are allocating more money to multifamily projects while banks are competing to provide loans. Not surprisingly, the consensus among the investment community is that the south offers the potential for the highest yields, with a strong focus on Florida.

Multifamily development is one of the key elements that has ignited and enabled our city’s recent growth, and with continued support, one that promises to keep Jacksonville in those top rankings for livability.

This article was also published in the Florida Times-Union: