New jobs spark concerns about housing in Newton Co.

by: Richard Elliot Updated:


NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. - With new industry and jobs moving into the area, Newton County is bracing for an influx of new workers, but some experts wonder if there are enough existing homes to house them all.

But some builders say they don't have enough bank financing to pay for new construction.

"We're ready to go," said Newton County Home Builders Association president Bob Goucher. "But the challenges we face right now are getting the financing to build the new houses that we need to build."

Goucher said in 2006, Newton County, just east of Atlanta, was ranked in the top five fastest-growing counties in the entire country.

But six years and one Great Recession later, he said, the county now ranks in the bottom 20 of the most economically challenged counties in the country. And he blames most of that on the collapse of the housing market.

"We are building about 2 percent of the homes that we were building in 2006," said Goucher.

But he hopes that could soon be changing.

Earlier this year, medical giant Baxter International announced it was building a facility in Newton County, while construction giant Caterpillar announced it was moving in one county over.

Those workers will need housing.

Goucher said his statistics show a home supply of only between four and five months. If more people come to Newton, that supply could dwindle, meaning somebody will have to build new ones.

However, Goucher said the biggest hurdle is bank financing. After the collapse of the Newton County housing market, banks are hesitant to lend there again. He hopes private investors will pick up the slack.

"I think it's going to take some investors willing to invest in America and invest in Newton County," said Goucher. "It's time for investors to come in and start helping us build homes."

Mike Smith is a longtime Newton County home builder. He's optimistic about the future, but still thinks they're a few years out from a recovery.

"Things are looking up here," said Smith. "But we're down at the bottom still."

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