That hammering noise you hear down the street may be home building in Hall County — and quite possibly the start of a residential boom not seen since before the Great Recession.
So far this year, nearly 3,000 homes, apartments, condominiums and townhomes have been approved or are under construction throughout Hall, according to a survey last week of area governments.
It’s quite the reversal of 10 years ago, when, during the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, construction came to a screeching halt — in 2010, literally just 1 building permit was issued in Gainesville.
Construction jobs are “coming back with a vengeance,” said Mike Roberson, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of North Georgia. “Everybody is wide open right now.”
Top housing projects
Here’s a brief look at some of Hall’s biggest residential developments under construction or approved in 2018 so far:
325-acre single-family subdivision off McEver Road in Flowery Branch
274-unit Mill at New Holland apartments off Limestone Parkway in Gainesville
266-unit apartment complex at Mundy Mill development in Gainesville
255-home single-family detached home and townhome development off McEver Road across from West Hall High School
248-unit multifamily development, Noble Vines, off Thompson Mill and Spout Springs roads in Braselton
194-lot age-restricted subdivision off Stephens Road in South Hall
187-lot subdivision approved in 2016, being built off Spout Springs Road near Quincy Drive
158-home townhome complex off Mountain View and Meeks roads in Oakwood
131-home active adult community off McEver and Old Flowery Branch roads in Oakwood
129-home single-family home subdivision off Jim Crow and Stephens roads in Flowery Branch
The growth is not stemming from development of mega-subdivisions approved pre-recession, like Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch, which is planned to include 2,000 homes when complete, but rather developments in the 100-300 home range.
Oakwood and Flowery Branch in South Hall have particularly gone through a succession of
residential development approvals by government this year.
One of the largest in Oakwood is a 255-home subdivision across from West Hall High School on McEver Road. That project also features commercial development, such as a shopping center, off McEver and Chamblee roads.
The most sizable project in Flowery Branch is a 325-home subdivision bounded by McEver, Gainesville Street and Lights Ferry Road, not far from the city’s downtown.
That project has been in the works for more than a decade.
The developer is “currently in the final stages of acquiring a land disturbance permit,” said Rich Atkinson, the city’s director of planning and community development. “They should begin clearing and grading soon afterwards.”
Grading already has been underway on another development, Park Haven, a 67 single-family home development off McEver and Gainesville Street, and the 55-home subdivision, The Branches, at Main, off East Main near Thurmon Tanner Parkway.
Grading also is taking place at a 131-townhome adult community off McEver and Old Flowery Branch roads and a 105-home development, Hawthorne Village, across from Johnson High School on Poplar Springs Road.
A couple of years ago, Oakwood city officials began focusing particularly on ramping up the number of homes in an otherwise heavily commercial and industrial city.
“With an 85 percent commercial/industrial tax base and a low population, our City Council decided it was important to diversify our tax base with more residential development,” City Manager Stan Brown said.
“The goal was to provide housing opportunities for those working in Oakwood.
“Also, since sales tax distribution to the county and cities are based on population, it is important that our population growth rate keeps up with the rate of other jurisdictions so can maintain our level of sales tax revenue.”
Brown said he believes “successful job creation” in South Hall and rising enrollment at the University of North Georgia are triggering much of the housing growth.
“As more people are working and going to school in the area, the need for additional housing and housing options has resulted,” he said.
Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller attributed much of his city’s growth to a resurgence in the downtown area, or Old Town, including construction of a new city hall and extension of Pine Street.
“Developers seemed to be coming out of the woodwork trying to get land for homes,” he said.
“And one of the things we’re seeing is a higher price point … and that only leads to better prices for everybody’s property around.”
Single-family houses aren’t the only homes on the market either.
In Gainesville, 266 apartments are under construction at the Mundy Mill development off Mundy Mill Road. Affordable housing units are being built at Walton Summit apartments off E.E. Butler Parkway.
And there are 32 condominiums planned at Parkside on the Square — which will be built on the parking lot on the fourth side of the square — but that number could change, as “we have some purchasers who will combine two units into one to get a larger space,” developer Tim Knight said.
The growth has been getting some pushback from residents speaking out at city council meetings.
A 158-townhome development off Meeks Drive at Mountain View Road, across from the massive Mundy Mill subdivision in Gainesville, was approved in Oakwood, but only after opposition from several nearby residents.
Traffic impact was a big concern, as was density of the development.
“There are too many houses too close together,” Maple Forge subdivision resident Joe Dale said. “We don’t need that kind of growth in our community.”
Not all the residential projects are getting the OK from officials.
In a June meeting, the Oakwood City Council rejected two apartment proposals.
“We cannot allow these big-box snake oil salesmen to destroy our community,” said Keith Kilby of Woodlane Drive at the meeting.
Not all is going smoothly on the job sites, either.
Even though the amount of work is going through the roof, “the biggest issue we’re having right now is labor,” Roberson said.
“We’re having a tremendous labor shortage in the industry. Homes that used to be built in 90 days are taking 180 or more (to complete).”
That problem is compounded by “very few people coming into the trade. Years ago, you go on a job site and the majority of the crews were folks just out of school,” Roberson said. “And now, it’s very rare to find anybody who’s under 30.”