Allen 60; Bourbon 10; Cherokee 47; Crawford 288; Linn 182
Also consider that 8 of the 10 houses built in BB were TINY houses, costing about $40,000 a piece. Only two market houses were built during the time period considered. Why are we the tip of the tail on the SEK housing dog? A few thoughts:
It is not employment. We have a strong employment base, and it seems that every employer is hiring. About one in three workers commute into BB from another jurisdiction. The lack of good jobs is not the problem.
It is not quality of life. We have as many amenities, if not more, as the competing counties listed above. Crime is not out of control, and community spirit is generally good. We have good schools, a good community college, good churches, and good cultural amenities.
First and foremost, it is taxes. Consider the fact that if you live in Fort Scott, you pay the highest tax rate of all first-class cities in the state, save one: Parsons. Here are the levies of the counties listed above:
Allen 62.88; Bourbon 66.67; Cherokee 51.70; Crawford 50.14; Linn 49.94
Yes, we are the highest in the area. We don’t even compare to Vernon County, Missouri.
The number two reason is related to the first: year after year of low comparable sales, because of high taxes, makes it VERY difficult for bankers and mortgage lenders to get an adequate appraisal to make a loan on a new house. Those who want to build a new house will have to come up with at least 30% down, perhaps more. Who can afford to throw away all that equity?
What is the solution? Some proposals:
Control the cost of government by looking at shared services. We can’t afford the luxury of taxing entities in close proximity ignoring each other, and replicating structures.
After we lower costs, reduce the levies. We have to get competitive with our neighbors. Also, we have to increase our assessed valuation, not by increasing the value of existing properties but building new ones.
Exploit what we have. Why does Linn County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates, and lowest household incomes in the state, build so many houses? Besides low taxes, they have lakes on which residents and those who want a second home can build. We have miles of undeveloped lake shoreline in BB.
Look to build public/private/charitable partnerships to explore solutions. It will take private creativity, public investment, and some charity to get the housing ball rolling, until taxes can be mitigated, and comparable sales increased.
Let’s make this a priority and seek solutions together.