In a rare moment of candor, a top Williamsburg real estate executive on Thursday said he is not convinced that the city’s housing market is stable enough to support more than a few thousand new residents a year.
“It’s just that hard,” said Robert Williams, president and chief executive officer of the Williams, the city-owned real estate investment trust.
“There’s been no recovery, no real growth.”
A month ago, the market tumbled from its recent high of $6.6 billion, when the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking the number of new homes built and sales in January, to a year low of $3.2 billion, according to a report from the Census Bureau.
That’s the lowest level in five years.
It was a sign of how quickly the market has recovered from the housing collapse of 2008.
At the time, the housing market was in crisis mode, and many investors and local officials were worried that too many new units were being built, putting the housing stock in serious danger of collapse.
While the housing recovery has begun to revive, there are still several hurdles to overcome before the market can sustain the new residents.
There are too many homes, too few units to make the market sustainable, said Williams.
And there are too few new residents to meet the demand, he said.
“The city can’t sustain it for too long,” he said, adding that the City Council has yet to approve a budget for the first half of the fiscal year.
The council is scheduled to consider a budget proposal Wednesday.
The market, which was once the hottest area of the city, has been particularly difficult for investors because of its high costs, and because there are no other affordable options to buy or rent, he added.
The City Council approved a budget of $15.4 billion for the fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18, and is expected to finalize it by early March.
Williams said that, while he’s not convinced the city can sustain a population of 2 million new residents, he believes the market will be “in a place where it can be sustainable for a long time.”
While the Williamsburgh Housing Authority has been able to attract new residents from other parts of the country, he conceded that there’s no guarantee the same will happen in Williamsburg.
“We’re not going to get people from the Northeast, or from the Midwest, or anywhere else to come to Williamsburg,” he added, referring to the city in southern Pennsylvania.
“If you have a strong market, and if the market continues to grow and you have an abundance of supply, you’re going to have people who want to live here,” he continued.
“If you’re a place that doesn’t have a high level of supply and demand, then the supply and the demand will not work.”
The Williamsburgh real estate market has struggled to maintain stability since the housing crisis, with the median price of a Williamsburg home for a home sold in November was $1.1 million, up from $1 million in August, according of a report by the New York-based Real Estate Board of New York.
The median price for a single-family home sold during the same period in November had risen to $2.2 million, according.
The median price in February was $2 million.
In February, the median sale price for all single-detached homes was $4.8 million.