Buildings along West Sullivan Street are slated to be demolished to make way for upscale apartments in downtown Kingsport. Photo by David Grace.
KINGSPORT — Overall, Kingsport has an older housing stock with a lack of newer developments as compared with Johnson City. However, city planners say the Model City does have plenty of land available for development and is an attractive market for moderately priced homes, high end houses and upscale rental units.
This was the message from Kingsport’s planning department at a recent Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session. Lynn Tully, planning director, gave a housing and development report to the BMA on Dec. 16 as part of the city’s visioning process that has been ongoing for the past two months.
Tully’s report included information on the types of families moving to Kingsport and the houses they generally look for, along with the city’s areas of opportunity when it comes to housing, specifically houses in the $400,000-plus range and rental units for those making $40,000 or more a year.
According to a 2012 market report from Buxton — a Texas-based analytics company — Kingsport’s top five resident segments are Families in Motion (married couples ages 25 to 45 with two or more children), Golden Year Guardians (people 65 and old living on modest means), Thriving Boomers (empty nesters in their 50s and 60s), Autumn Years (mature couples with grown children) and Pastoral Pride (middle-aged couples with few children at home).
Tully said these groups make up around 41.7 percent of Kingsport’s population.
In recent months, Kingsport officials have focused on high end housing, homes in the $400,000-plus range and have been working to finalize an incentive plan for developers and home builders to meet this apparent need.
City and elected officials have cited a number of reason why: Eastman’s expansion is expected to add 300 jobs in the next seven years, a number of retirements are expected in the chemical and medical fields and the fact Johnson City has twice the number of homes in the $400,000-plus range as Kingsport.
“Typically, Kingsport has been known as a custom-build city. That’s how people see us. And in 2010 and 2011, we saw a lot of builders, who were mature in building years, retire. Some had health issues and several passed away,” Tully said. “Today, we’re seeing some of those folks come back in and in 2012 and 2013, we’re approaching pre-recession levels.
“We have a burgeoning comeback in new housing starts.”
A majority of Kingsport’s housing stock (55 percent) was built before 1970. By comparison, 38 percent of Johnson City’s housing stock was built before 1970.
Kingsport has grown by 15 percent in recent years, mostly due to annexation, while the housing market has grown slightly more than 11 percent since 1990. Excluding annexation, Kingsport has seen about 1 percent growth in its population.
“We are still seeing growth; it’s slow and controlled,” Tully said.
Of the people moving to Kingsport, Tully said the city sees a concentration in two areas — the Power Elite/Flourishing Families and with Families in Motion. Power Elite are described as families with dual earners bringing home $250,000 a year while Flourishing Families are middle-aged families making a six-figure income.
“These folks are not finding houses in our market. What they’re looking for, they’re finding it in the Johnson City market,” Tully said. “Johnson City is selling at four times our numbers and the housing is consistently newe r. ”
Tully said a nasty rumor that has been circulating is Kingsport does not have good land to build new housing developments on or enough land to accommodate home builders.
“That’s just not true. There’s plenty of land here. It’s going to cost, but it’s good land and very suitable for development” Tully said.
According to the report, some of the prime locations for development include the Allandale area and West Carters Valley on the west side of town, Cooks Valley, Fall Creek, Orebank and Island Road on the east and the Edinburgh and Mitchell Road areas in the south.
“I see us as being a prime market for reinvestment,” Tully said. “Where folks are buying homes and hope to reinvest by bringing those homes up to a higher standard — areas like Green Acres, Colonial Heights, Sevier Terrace and Hiara Heights.”
The report continues by saying Kingsport has little to no competitive rental units available to suit the $40,000 and above income renters and that prior to 2012, the last large scale apartments built in the Model City was in 1985.