Housing Study Says The Coast Is Near A Recession

Larry Ripley is project manager for Southern Homes. "I've got 25 houses under construction right now in this subdivision," he said. When Ripley was asked if they're all going to sell, he said, "Most of them are sold."

Ripley is overseeing construction of the Popps Ferry Landing subdivision. "In our case, we generally stay pretty busy," he said. "I know some of the other people have slowed down. But we really haven't seen a big problem in a slowdown."

But as a whole, the coast housing market has seen a slowdown. And according to the findings in phase one of a report by Robert Siegel, housing activity along the coast over the next three years is expected to keep declining. That's because Siegel's computer models indicate that the coast job market will be relatively flat.

"Obviously housing demand is driven by job growth," Brynn Joachim with the Harrison County Development Commission said.

Joachim has read over Siegel's analysis of the coast housing market. "It's better than 1992 levels," she said. "In fact, it's about average with where we were in '96 and '97. But it's not 1998 and '99 levels."

Siegel's report says that's because there's been little job growth over the last two years. The analyst considers the coast's economic situation a recession. Joachim countered by saying, "I think that's a little strong."

From a construction perspective, housing developers have doubts about the coast economy being sluggish. According to Ripley, "If they're not sold when we pull the permits, then they sell before I get the house finished."

The Siegel study did point out that because the coast economy is volatile, it could suddenly take an upswing. And that would stimulate more home sales. Harrison County got a $25,000 grant to pay for this study.