The story has been told 100 times all over northeast Ohio so it is probably not a shock to anyone to hear that 2009 was a very slow year for residential construction activity in Kent. You just have to drive around to see the lack of contractors on sites for new home construction — and the end of year numbers that just came in confirm the limited investment made in residential construction last year.
The value of new residential construction in 2009 was 340% less than the 10 year average. Yes, that would make it the record low for the last 10 years.
By comparison, the commercial value for 2009 was actually 10% above the 10 year average (thank you Mr. Burbick for Acorn Alley and the Phoenix Project).
In total, the construction value of projects in 2009 was down but it was not atypical with some of the low cycles that investment has seen in the last 10 years.
New construction investment is an important indicator of community prosperity so we pay attention to them. Investment tends to beget more investment (downtown Kent is a great example of that) and likewise divestment tends to lead to more divestment (unfortunately the old Tops plaza is an example of that). New investment, particularly commerical investment, really does have a halo effect — I don’t know if it’s peer pressure, market competition or human nature but regardless we’ve seen time and time again where an investment in one property seems to create a domino effect on properties all around it. That’s the kind of momentum we’re working hard to create in the downtown in the hopes that its rising tide will lift the boats all over Kent.
Flat investment numbers are frustrating for the reasons noted above but city economics is such that our revenues are primarily from income taxes — we only get a small share of property taxes — so the lack of investment in new housing starts is less of a city financial issue (and the truth be told given our tax structure the city loses money on residential properties so you could almost argue that lack of housing construction is almost good for the city financially but that’s a discussion for another day) than it is a community prosperity issue.
Here’s a look inside the numbers:
By comparison here’s a look at the trends within Portage County: