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New study: More rental housing needed in Aiken

August 31, 2018

Housing is and will continue to be in demand throughout the city of Aiken, according to a hyper-local market study published earlier this month.

The 175-plus-page study – conducted by Novogradac & Company and informed by local planning and business leaders – states 125 affordable rental units and 314 market-rate rental units will be needed in the city through 2022.

The downtown Aiken area specifically, the report continues, could support 50-100 affordable units and 100-200 market-rate units on top of that through the same period.

And those are just conservative estimates, to use the study’s language.

The study, dated Aug. 10 and effective July 26, names the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, Aiken Corporation, the city and the Economic Development Partnership as its clients. The study will be used to inform municipal and investment strategies.

“The purpose of this engagement is to conduct and provide a rental housing market study of Aiken that will be used to focus the rental housing and development strategy, and to provide recommendations for the city moving forward,” the study’s introduction reads.

The increased housing demand, according to the analysis, can be traced to two causes: mass retirement at the Savannah River Site, and thus a wave of new, younger employees, and the establishment of the nation’s cyber command in the two-state region.

Even more housing could be needed between now and 2022 depending on the success of SRS and cyber, the study reads.

In January, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions President and CEO Stuart MacVean said half his employees four years ago were retirement ready. He described the phenomenon as a “retirement cliff.”

“That’s a lot of people you need to hire in order to replace those folks,” he said at the time.

Demand for smaller units

The average household in Aiken is expected to increase to 2.25 persons by 2022, according to the study, which means demand for smaller units will expand.

That means the one-, two- and potentially three-bedroom rental market could see a longterm boon. One- and two-bedroom households represent the largest cohort in Aiken proper. One-bedroom households are most popular in the downtown area.

The downtown area in the study is defined by Edgefield Avenue, Sumter Street, Hayne Avenue and South Boundary Avenue.

One-bedroom units up to 950 square-feet, two-bedroom units up to 1,100 square-feet and three-bedroom units up to 1,500 square-feet would prove popular on the Aiken market, the study states.

And those sort of units, the study proposes, could thrive in a variety of places.

Prime locations for housing

Novogradac & Company came up with a list of six suitor sites in downtown Aiken, including the Wells Fargo Bank lot, the Area Churches Together Serving lot, the old Aiken County hospital lot and the city’s Municipal Building lot.

The Wells Fargo branch along Laurens Street is slated to close in September. The study describes the site as a “prime location” with “excellent” walkability and high desirability.

“This site would be an excellent location for multifamily housing,” the study reads.

The ACTS lot is in an “excellent location,” according to the study, and has frontage along Hayne and Park avenues. ACTS is currently looking to move to a larger facility, according to the study, which further cited Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson. That would open up the space.

The old county hospital is already being considered for restoration and future housing by The Marian Group, a Kentucky-based real estate development firm.

The Municipal Building property, which takes an “L” shape, is considered “to be excellent and among the most desirable for multifamily in this market,” the study reads. And, according to contacts sourced in the study, the city “has considered relocating.”

Novogradac & Company is a national professional services company that offers tax, consulting, development and housing services.

Area professionals interviewed for the study include Aiken Planning Director Ryan Bland, Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization President Rick McLeod, Aiken City Council member Lessie Price, attorney Arthur “Buzz” Rich and Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh.

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