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Oklahoma City Housing Shortage Could Send Residents To Outlying Neighborhoods

A townhome at The Hill at Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
A townhome at The Hill at Bricktown in downtown Oklahoma City.

Over a seven-year period, the number of homes in downtown Oklahoma City will more than quadruple, and almost none of them will be for sale.

Oklahoma City Assistant City Planner Ian Colgan says 96 percent of the homes downtown are rentals - demonstrating a growing trend of lease properties, as opposed to traditional, single-family homes for sale.

The Journal Record's Molly M. Fleming reports many developers find it makes more sense to put up rental units with regular cash flow, rather than properties that are sold once.

Oklahoma Association of Realtors Past President Joe Pryor said it’s difficult for developers to build single-family homes downtown because of the land cost. A multifamily developer can build and rent the space multiple times, eventually getting back the investment. A single-family home can be sold once or once every few years, so unless it’s priced like the brownstones, or homes on The Hill, the return isn’t as immediate. “There really is no affordable housing down there,” he said. “I don’t particularly see any affordable housing coming. You just can’t build them enough to get a groundswell.”

That means the young, creative class that's descended upon Oklahoma City may have to look beyond the downtown core for affordable housing. 88 percent of downtown residents are college graduates, and half of them work downtown.

But 87 percent are childless, and that number will dwindle as more and more couples start families. They could move to neighborhoods like Classen Ten Penn - a stretch bordered by Classen Blvd. to the east and Pennsylvania Ave. to the west, and between NW 10th and 16th Streets. Incentives may lure people to these neighborhoods, but so far tax breaks for renovating a home or living in a certain area are still in the idea phase, with no specific plan.

One area that could accommodate these new families sooner is the Wheeler District. Aggressive development along Western Ave. on either side of the Oklahoma River should bring 2,000 housing units, 200,000 square feet of retail, and one large, landmark Ferris wheel by 2016.

[Developer Blair] Humphreys has said he wants to build one- to three-story homes. The home design aesthetic will not have a central theme, he said. He also expects to offer a variety of home prices, appealing to different income levels. “This will not compete with Midtown or downtown,” he said. “We think there’s a way to provide something that fits the market.” He said he’s considered pocket neighborhoods and other eclectic homes. In a pocket neighborhood, seven or eight homes share a large green area. He wants to have a mix of owned and leased homes.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and the Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription  

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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