Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville homes often go to renters

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville has more renters than homeowners, according to a presentation by the chamber of commerce to the city council Thursday night. The entire statistical presentation painted a surprising picture for Jacksonville. Not only does the city have more renters than home owners, its housing has a lower value than its neighbors, income is lower, and contrary to popular belief, the city actually has more young people than older established families.

In her PowerPoint display, Bonita Rownd, executive director of the chamber, told the city council that 52 percent of all Jacksonville housing was renter-occupied, leaving 48 percent owner-occupied. That means Jacksonville was about 20 percent more renters than the national average, 22 percent more than the state average and about 14 percent more than the county average.

Compared to immediate neighboring cities, Jacksonville’s rental percentage was almost double that of Cabot’s and about 20 percent higher than Sherwood. Not only does Jacksonville have more rentals than any other city in the area, but also the rental rate is lower.

The average low rate is just under $400 in Jacksonville, but it’s $440 in Cabot and $550 in Sherwood. At the high end, Jacksonville’s average is $450, but it’s $100 more in Cabot and another $100 more in Sherwood. The data collected through the U.S. Census and other sources also showed that Jacksonville had the cheapest housing values in the area.

About 60 percent of Jacksonville’s homes are valued at less than $100,000, compared to about 32 percent for Cabot and 37 percent for Sherwood. Jacksonville also has fewer homes in the coveted $100,000 to $199,000 range. Just 33 percent of the city’s homes are in this range, compared to 55 percent in Cabot and Sherwood. Proponents of the proposed townhouses on West Main jumped on this point at the council meeting, saying that the townhouses meet the need for homes in this coveted range as they would sell for $160,000 or more.

Jacksonville also has fewer $200,000-plus homes than Cabot or Sherwood. Along with the lower housing values, the city’s housing is also older than Cabot’s or Sherwood’s. Nearly 80 percent of Jacksonville’s homes are 17 years old or older, compared to about 35 percent for Cabot and about 65 percent for Sherwood.

Alderman Gary Fletcher said this figure was skewed because of all the homes in the Sunnyside Addition, which are 40 years old and older. “That’s about 500 homes right there,” he said. Just 9 percent of the city’s homes are less than seven years old, compared to 34 percent for Cabot and 18 percent for Sherwood. Nearly 40 percent of Jacksonville’s population is under the age of 24 and another 37 percent are between the ages of 25 and 49. Only Conway has a larger young population, but it also has three colleges.

Alderman Terry Sansing said it surprised him that the developers of the proposed townhouses were pushing the plan for the seniors when in fact it would be younger people moving in, bringing more children and more traffic to the area. In direct relation to the cheaper housing and the larger number of renters, the city’s education level is correspondingly lower than the neighboring cities.

Jacksonville has more non-high school graduates living in the city than Cabot or Sherwood, and has less college-degreed residents than the neighboring cities. This correlates to an average household income of about $48,000, well below the national and county averages, and about $4,000 below the state average.

The average household income for Cabot and Sherwood is $60,000 or more.