Apartment Booms Continue In Columbus, Should Homeowners Be Worried?

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Though spring has not yet arrived, everywhere you go, it seems you'll see construction - especially apartments.  One expert says it's in response to changing lifestyles, a change that may create a new problem.

A giant crane cuts a huge arc across the sky above Grandview. Men are busy building below it. The new apartments are rising skyward. 

The greater Columbus building boom began as the recession ended in 2012.      

"I think it's good," commented local resident Harry Harbin. "There's a lot of people moving to Columbus." 

Three years and 5,000 apartments later, the construction shows no sign of letting up.

"It's actually accelerating," said Rob Vogt, a partner in Vogt Santer Insights, a company that specializes in real estate feasibility studies. "We see close to 5,000-6,000 units right now in the pipeline. That will probably have a huge impact on the Central Ohio housing market in the coming couple of years."

Vogt said much of the thirst for new rental housing is driven by the millennial generation. He said many twenty-something residents have too much college debt to qualify for a home loan.  Others currently have no interest in home ownership.

"These are folks who aren't getting married, they're not getting into relationships, they're staying single longer," he explained. 

He said they also love the idea of walking to work, restaurants, and entertainment.

In Clintonville, Stephanie Haring said, "I think it's exciting that new things are coming, and giving it a new look."

The new look is an old one. Vogt said more projects involve restaurants and retail on the ground floor, and apartments above. It's a centuries-old idea that took hold in the Short North a decade ago.

"When we saw the success of those properties, it stimulated the idea amongst a lot of developers to say 'I think people want mixed use,'" Vogt said. "I think people just are tired of driving.  And, the idea of being able to park in your building and to have many of the services that you would seek out, is very desirable."

He said that the same pattern is showing up in suburban communities when empty nesters want to downsize. 

But that will create a new problem: When larger homes are for sale, who will buy them? 

A man who didn't want his named used told 10TV that the issue concerned him.

"I worry about the new construction coming up and the property values of homeowners down. I'm looking to sell my place in a couple years here, I'm worried that it won't be as much, worth as much as it would be without this new construction," he said.

"That's a very real issue right now," Vogt agreed. "As people downsize, the number of folks to replace them is probably not going to be there, so we're going to have to think about some creative solutions on what to do with all those single family homes out there."