ANGLETON — Hurricane Harvey left almost 13,000 homes in Brazoria County with water damage, but the county’s thriving economy likely will mean a relatively short recovery time,a housing expert told local business leaders.
Brazoria County’s housing market likely will return to pre-flood levels by early next spring, said Scott Davis, senior vice president at housing development consultancy Meyers Research.
“Although they can be psychologically traumatic and economically challenging, our region does respond pretty quickly to these kinds of events,” Davis told members of the Economic Development Alliance for Brazoria County during its annual membership luncheon Wednesday at the Central Brazoria County Business Park.
“We’re thinking we’re going to be looking at the earlier end of that curve to recovery and it’s because of the economic strength in places like Brazoria County that we’re able to do that,” he said.
The manufacturing industry in Brazoria County has consistently bucked downward job trends experienced in the rest of the Houston metropolitan area, Davis said.
“The reason why are these,” he said, holding up a bag of plastic pellets produced by Brazoria County industrial giants such as Dow Chemical Co. “As long as we need plastic consumer goods, from tables to cups, Brazoria County will continue to experience a significant growth.”
That growth is not without its downsides, however, Davis said. Brazoria County families currently have a median annual income of $74,000, but that number is climbing at only about 1 percent each year. Housing prices have been increasing by more than twice that amount, he said.
“It’s not keeping the pace with price increases in the housing market, which can lead to affordability problems,” Davis said. “These are strong signs we have a shortage of housing in Brazoria County and we need to be building more houses to meet that demand.”
The county has grown by almost 50,000 residents since 2010, Davis said, making its population almost equal to Montgomery County. That growth has spurred about 60 housing projects throughout the county, including the Meridiana and Sterling Lakes subdivisions in Rosharon and Pomona in Manvel.
Most repair bids for flood-damaged homes in Brazoria County have come in at about $60 to $80 per square foot, Davis said, which will amount to about $1.5 billion in construction costs just to get a minimal standard of repair.
“When you look at how tight construction labor is in the Houston metropolitan area, it’s going to be tough to get that construction work done,” he said.
Brazosport College economics professor Donald Payne Jr. also gave his economic forecast during the meeting. Data in his forecast includes a look at hotel/motel tax receipts, employment and foreclosure notices among other economic trends.
County sales tax receipts climbed 11 percent from last year, but hotel/motel tax receipts saw a 9 percent decline — likely due to Hurricane Harvey, Payne said.
Single-home building permits also took about a 30 percent hit from Harvey, Payne said.
“As you’d imagine, not very many people were thinking about building homes the last part of August,” he said. “When we found out the hurricane was coming this way, those 10 days people weren’t filing for permits and that’s about a third of the month. I think that’s to be expected.”
The Alliance also honored two businesses, honoring BASF as its Business of the Quarter for its efforts responding to Harvey, and On the River/River Point restaurants and owner Drew Ryder as Business of the Year for his strong record of community involvement.