Two researchers called on Potter County leaders to bring together business representatives and public officials to prepare for an important mission – preparing for the housing crunch that they say will accompany the gas industry. They warned that the gas-drilling slump that has lingered for more than a year is going to end. And when it does, the changes could come too fast to effectively handle. Drs. Bonita Kolb and Jonathan Williamson from the Center for the Study of Community and the Economy were featured speakers at the recent inaugural public meeting of the county’s new Natural Gas Resource Center. They conducted a study of housing trends – availability and affordability – in six counties where shale gas development has begun in earnest. They told an audience of about 50 at the Gunzburger Building auditorium that, without comprehensive planning, Potter County could experience serious problems. Rents have doubled or tripled in sections of the study area, the researchers reported, and the poor have been forced out of their homes.
“It’s mostly felt by those at the bottom of the economic ladder,” Dr. Kolb said. “This has really affected the working poor, who now have to rely more on social services because of their higher rent.” Over time, the researchers said, the private sector will respond. But in the interim, public officials should consider steps such as tax incentives and public investments to support mixed-income development.
“Now is the time to bring to the table people with expertise on real estate and private development, as well as your public officials,” Dr. Williamson suggested. “If you can put together a team of people who can work together and believe in public and private partnering, you can get out ahead of these issues.”
Joining the two professors on the speakers’ panel were local real estate professional Bill Hunter, Melissa Gee from Potter County Human Services, and Potter County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities executive director John Wright.
Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.