BURLEY — Hundreds of new homes, duplexes and apartments are being built in Mini-Cassia to house scores of workers flooding to the area to fill jobs in new or expanding businesses.
The lack of available homes for sale or rent isn’t a new problem, said Doug Manning, Burley’s economic development director. But its now at the forefront because businesses say they’re having to turn away workers who can’t find housing.
“It’s a problem we have, but a good problem to have because if we didn’t have it, it would mean we were dying on the vine,” he said.
Several developments underway could soon ease the tight housing market.
An apartment complex with 80 units is under construction on south Hiland Avenue and other developers are looking at locations for another apartment complex with 50 to 80 units, Manning said.
Three new subdivisions in south Burley are in the engineering and review phase.
“I wish I could snap my fingers and have them all done because it would help with the labor market,” Manning said.
The city’s unemployment rate is hovering around 2 percent.
Southern Field Welding recently hired nine welders, but seven of them ended up not taking the jobs because they couldn’t find housing in Mini-Cassia, said Blake R. Hollingsworth, the company’s general manager.
Tony Morley, Heyburn city administrator, said he often hears from people in industry and from Realtors that people can’t find affordable homes in the area.
As new housing options continue to pop up across the area, the number of existing homes for sale continues to lag.
“The inventory of houses for sale is lower than normal,” Joe Farfan, an agent with Century 21 Riverside Realty, said. “It’s definitely a seller’s market.”
Multiple Listing Service has 85 residential homes for sale in Burley, Rupert, Heyburn, Paul, Oakley, Albion and Malta between $50,000 and $500,000.
MLS does not count the number of homes for sale by owner or those listed on Zillow, an online company that competes with the real estate companies for listings.
In the past, an average number of homes would have been 150 to 200 and sometimes as high as 300.
“It seems like every year since 2014 the inventory has dipped,” Farfan said.
At the lowest point, Farfan noted there were just 65 homes for sale.
At least five people a day come into Farfan’s office for his company’s free list of rental properties.
The rental market in Mini-Cassia has remained strong and most homes that are in good condition with comparable rents, go quickly, he said.
“They rent faster in today’s market and for more money than a few years ago,” he said.
Morley said this week the Heyburn City Council passed the preliminary plat for a new 48-unit apartment complex.
“We have a huge backlog of residential projects that we’re trying to get off the ground,” he said. “It’s exciting and staggering at the same time.”
Several duplexes and fourplexes under construction.
“We have really steady growth taking place,” he said.
Rupert City Administrator Kelly Anthon said there are seven subdivisions with 200 units under development in his city.
“Those subdivisions have a variety of housing options,” he said.
Anthon said the need for more housing came on the tail of 120 new jobs added in the city in the past three years.
Economic development, he said, occurs in phases: First comes industry and business, then housing and retail.
Rupert has added $17 million to its tax base this year, which lowered the city’s levy rate, Anthon said.
Businesses are boasting free health care on their marquees trying to lure employees, and the median wage in the area has gone from $25,000 to $35,000 a year.
In his years as city administrator and as the city’s attorney for 10 years prior to that, Anthon has never seen that kind of growth in the city.
“The growth is really historic,” he said.