Three-fifths of Statesboro renter households are “cost burdened,” spending more than 30% of their income on rent, according to a consulting group’s housing study and needs analysis commissioned by the city government.
“If you look at the very end of that, 35% or more, we consider those folks severely cost burdened,” said KB Advisory Group consultant Alex Seidenberg. “They’re paying substantial amounts of their income on housing. You know, this can be somewhat problematic. It means there’s less money being spent in the community and more money being spent on housing, so there are potential stability issues.”
The report showed 49% of local renter households in this “severely cost-burdened” category of having to spend 35% or more of their income on rent and another 12% of renter households in the merely “cost-burdened” group spending 30 to 35%.
Delivering the study report June 15 to the mayor and council, Seidenberg and KB Advisory Group Vice President Jonathan Gelber observed that the predominance of university-student renters, especially from metro-Atlanta counties where average incomes are much higher, pulls Statesboro average rents upward, to the disadvantage of local families who rent.
Paradoxically, Georgia Southern University students also skew Statesboro’s household income statistics lower, since their incomes from lower-paying or part-time local jobs are counted here, but not their parents’ greater resources when those parents live elsewhere, Seidenberg observed.
The median household income in the Statesboro city limits, according to a 2020 U.S. Census Bureau five-year estimate cited in the report, was only $29,203, while Bulloch County’s overall median household income was $50,436. Georgia’s was $61,980. But 18- to 20-year-olds make up 20%, and 21- to 24-year-olds another 20%, of Statesboro’s population, while those two narrow age brackets together encompass only about 10% of the statewide population.
“So, the ages that I just talked about, 18 to 24, they’re not making annual salaries like most of us. They’re usually working part-time jobs, internships,” Seidenberg said. “But the difference is that you know those students have tremendous access to capital, and that’s because they’re in college so they’re maybe being bankrolled by their parents or they’ve got financial aid, they’ve got loans … which is how they can still spend money in the community.”
A student majority
Of Statesboro’s estimated population of 32,859 used in the study, the consultants reckoned that 17,000 to 17,500 residents, well over than half, are Georgia Southern students. Of those, the KB Group consultants figured that approximately 30%, or about 8,000 GS students, hail from metro Atlanta.
The median household income in metro Atlanta is $59,948 and the median annual pay for working adults $69,464, making an “affordable” rent, which is marginally less than 30% of that pay level, $1,735 a month in the metro area. In Statesboro, with the median household income $29,203 but median pay $35,940, the “affordable” midrange rent is $899.
“So what we’re finding here is in this town where there’s roughly 15,000 civilians, those 15,000 civilians earning Statesboro wages, living in Statesboro, are competing for the same housing units with 8,000 students backed up by their parents coming from metro Atlanta where they are used to $1,700,” Gelber said, further suggesting that some metro families might see Statesboro rents and think, “I could rent two of those.”
This disrupts the market and makes it complicated to quantify “but also creates a kind of uneven competition between local residents here and the money coming in from the outside markets,” he said.
City of renters
For years now local officials have noted that Statesboro is predominantly a city of renters, and the study reiterated that fact. Only 26% of housing units in Statesboro, including all houses and apartments, are owner-occupied, while 74% are rentals, the report showed. But in Bulloch County overall, 54% of housing units are owner-occupied and 46% are rentals.
Within Statesboro, construction of rental units accelerated dramatically over the past 20 years and in recent years has outstripped construction of homes for sale. More than 75% of purpose-built student housing in Statesboro has been built since 2000, KB Advisory Group reported.
Looking at Statesboro’s housing supply in general, the consultants found that 38% of the existing housing is over 50 years old and predicted that, at current construction rates, more than half of all the homes in Statesboro will be over 50 years old by 2030.
Most new homes built for sale in Bulloch County are outside of Statesboro, although many are in a three-mile “buffer” around the city limits. So, Statesboro itself has captured only 7% of new home sales in the county since 2014, KB Advisory Group reported.
On the upside, a far smaller portion of Statesboro homeowners, 27%, are “cost burdened” by spending more than 30% of their incomes on mortgage payments, compared to renters similarly burdened by rent.
The median Statesboro home value, based on data from Environ Analytics and the Census Bureau, was $143,788. Among a “peer group” of six medium-sized Georgia cities with colleges and universities, Statesboro’s median price was third, lower than Carrollton’s $173,176 median price and Valdosta’s $144,480 but higher than Milledgeville’s $142,921, Hinesville’s $130,081 and Albany’s $112,672, KB Advisory Group reported.
Over the past decade, Statesboro had the most population growth of any of those cities.
But the consultants also reported that of the 16,257 people who held jobs in Statesboro at the time of the study, 13,528, or more than 83%, were not Statesboro residents but commuted into town. This “helps to illustrate one of the impacts in Statesboro’s limited housing supply,” a frame in the consultants’ slideshow stated. It also indicates another source of demand for more housing in Statesboro, Gelber suggested.
Besides the more than 45-frame slide show, the consultants delivered a 99-page printed report, consisting mostly of graphs, charts, maps and illustrations. They made detailed predictions of the number of new housing units needed to meet demand over the next 10 years by type and price range.
KB Advisory Group also made provided strategic recommendations, which will be reported later, for steps the city could take to encourage investment and construction.
The city government also has the Coastal Regional Commission working on an “Affordable Housing Plan,” slated for presentation in August, using some of the data from the consultants’ report.