BY GENA HUFF, Editor
In last week’s issue, the Part One article of “Changing the Face of Tomorrow,” focused more specifically on the local school system and how it is affecting our community as a whole. Part Two of the series focuses on the housing issues within our communities.
After speaking at length with Aliceville Chamber of Commerce Director, Edgar Pruitt, it was quite clear the housing market within our county cannot support the employees for the jobs created or the ones waiting to be created in the county.
When speaking with local employers, Pruitt began asking himself if a person would drive here to work, and they are spending an extra two or three hours getting to work every day, why wouldn’t they live here? So, he developed a survey to ask them. And the feedback received stated in no uncertain terms the reason was there were no places to stay.
“We have no place for them to stay in the community,” said Pruitt. “Not even to look for a place to stay. The prison for example, the government provides 30 to 45 days of temporary living to find them a place to stay. Well, we have no place for them to stay temporarily to look for a place to stay. So why everybody moved to Tuscaloosa and Columbus was because there are no rental properties (here) for them to stay in. And that led me to this idea that maybe the bigger problem here is we have a residential housing problem. We have homes, but we don’t have a housing market.”
According to Pruitt, there are four tiers to the housing market – apartments, the starter home, the family home, and the retirement home. “We tend to only have subsidized housing for the poor and retirement homes for the elderly because that is what this community is made up of,” observed Pruitt. “We are missing all the growth that sustains communities.”
“We worked to get the prison into our community to get high-paying jobs. Less than 10 percent of those people live in our community because we didn’t finish the work of providing a place for them to live,” said Pruitt. “That prison has, of the 291 employees, 45 percent have families. Fifty-five percent are single. Think about getting that community in our community. That energy.”
“We don’t have 10 years to figure out if they are going to build the other two prisons in Aliceville,” Pruitt stated, “because the warden, if we don’t see some traction in housing is going to oppose that plan. She’s already told me that.”
“We can create a market so when these retirees want to sell their retirement homes, there is a buyer for it already in our community. Because we will move people through that life-cycle of a housing market,” continued Pruitt. “We can become the first residential home. The starter home.”
“Rising tides lift all boats,” Pruitt likes to say. And to create a rising tide within our community in terms of housing will increase population, which in turn will increase school enrollment and funding, which will in turn increases local economy, which will in turn creates a pull-effect for new markets and generates interest in locating new markets within our community.
See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.