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Demand for housing in Enid, OK, isn't sparking new construction

The national housing crash, energy company Continental Resources' move to Oklahoma City, and the death of a few builders all but stopped home construction in Enid. Now tight credit and lack of investors is making it hard to get it started up again, even with a study showing great demand.
by Richard Mize Modified: September 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: September 8, 2013

Enid housing is stuck.

Demand is through the roof, but almost no builders are building.

“It was sort of a perfect storm,” said developer-builder David Ritchie, one of the few left standing after the double whammy of the 2007-2009 national housing crash and March 2011 announcement of Continental Resources' pending move from downtown Enid to downtown Oklahoma City.

Continental didn't move until 2012, but the announcement alone was enough to send builders into retreat.

“With the national economy the way it was, and Continental's announcement, the perception of a lot of people in the Enid area was that we were really heading into a downturn. The exact opposite actually happened,” Ritchie said. “A lot of the homes of the people at Continental sold and were absorbed into the market.

“But the new housing construction market, because of the perception that was out there, just dried up. It has stayed that way. ... And now what's happening is the demand has kicked up substantially, and the other side of the equation hasn't. So we've got tremendous demand and we don't have anybody right now that's filling it, as far as the building market for new homes.

Employers squeezed

When homebuilding hit the wall — or rather, quit erecting walls — it got Enid's growing businesses' attention, said Lisa Powell, associate director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance.

Powell said employers were finding it difficult to get and keep employees. Employers from energy-related companies in the booming Mississippian oil and gas play to the northwest, Koch Industries with its growing nitrogen plant and $1 billion plans for a urea plant and expansion, to long-established employers like Advance Pierre Foods, to the city's two hospitals, to its public school system.

So the alliance commissioned a housing study to quantify what everybody here knew: Enid has a housing shortage.

“The limitations on housing, rental housing, all types of housing in Enid, were limiting our businesses in their growth, because they could recruit the employees here but then they couldn't find a place to live,” Powell said.

Numbing numbers

The alliance contracted with Houston-based CDS Market Research to come up with hard figures.

Powell said the intent was “to quantify statistically, why do we have a shortage? Specifically, what is that shortage? What price range is that in? How many houses can we support? How many apartments do we need? So we can take that information and shake the market loose a little bit and recruit some builders and developers and people who want to invest in housing here.”

The bottom line? Some 330 new single-family houses would be absorbed, and between 300 and 400 rental units would be filled over the next 12 to 24 months — if they were to be built.

Developer Gene Anderson is doing his part to answer the need with a long-term mixed-use project called Stonebridge Village. Anderson called the project, which encountered but worked through opposition from some neighbors, “a complete village combined with residential, multifamily, commercial” with a park and lake.

Anderson said it will be patterned after Villas at Stonebridge in Edmond, with 120 single-family houses, about 200 upscale apartments in a “live-work-play” environment, a concept that is a “proven success” in other growing markets.

Sustainable growth

Powell said the study determined something else even more important for the long term.

“The real finding from the study was that the growth that we're experiencing in Enid is not temporary. It is not the boom-and-bust cycle of the oil-and-gas industry. It is permanent. It's real. It's from all our legacy companies growing, and it's here to stay. That's the good news. We hope that will give comfort to those who are interested in developing here. It's here to stay.”

Another energy bust would hurt, of course, but the oil and gas business is a small percentage of Enid's economy, said Aaron Brownlee, president and chief operating officer of Enid-based Wymer Brownlee, a financial, tax and investment services firm with offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Bartlesville and Fairview.

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by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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