Chrissy and Rob Fox aren’t new to Hamilton, but the subdivision where they live is new to them. They’ve only lived there about 14 months.
The parents of two college graduates had lived in an older home elsewhere on Hamilton’s West Side. They are part of a two-year surge in people occupying newly built single-family homes and duplexes in Butler County’s seat. The past two years, Hamilton has seen a 252 percent increase in such housing starts.
“We were just looking for new construction,” Chrissy Fox said. “We were definitely done with the fixer-upper thing. We were looking for something new — something more modern.”
The past two years have seen a sharp increase in new Hamilton homes, from an average of 21 per year between 2009 and 2016 up to 70 in 2017 and 78 in 2018. Officials say that a better economy has allowed areas of subdivisions to that were left empty to be filled, and real estate agents and builders who work in Hamilton credit a strong economy, low interest rates and low unemployment as reasons for the growth.
By comparison, Housing starts across Butler County have mostly held steady between 524 and 556 each from 2013 through 2018. The exception was 2017, which saw a 13-percent jump to 611, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.
In recent years, Butler County’s Liberty Twp. has been the leading home-building place in the eight-county area of southwest Ohio covered by the association. It includes Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Fayette, Hamilton, Ross and Warren Counties.
Through November of 2018, Liberty had 247 new single-family permits, followed by Warren County’s Hamilton Township (154) and Deerfield Township (148). Through November, Butler County 2018 single-family permits were down 10.8 percent, while Warren County’s were down 11.2 percent. Housing starts in Hamilton County were up 11.8 percent from 2017, while Clermont County’s were up 7.6 percent.
Chrissy Fox is the director of Hamilton High School’s Show Choir, which is now in its competition season.
Rob Fox has lived in Hamilton most of his life, and graduated from Hamilton High School in 1988.
“She works in Hamilton,” Rob Fox said. “I was working in Batavia, but in my new role with my company (Rockwell Automation), I get to work from home. I deal with people from all over the eastern United States, so it really didn’t matter where I was doing it from.
“I’ve been encouraged by the things the city has been doing lately, with the renovations downtown. It feels like things are moving in the right direction, where for a lot of years it didn’t feel like it was. It just seemed kind of stagnant.It feels like the community’s gaining momentum. That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to stay here.”
They have a home with a modern feel, featuring open spaces. There are plenty of open spaces in their West Side subdivision, but new houses are being built, including one on the other side of the street from them.
“There’s been a lot of infill going on,” said Ed Wilson, Associate Planner II with the city, who tracks the number of building permits. “You might have a development that was very robust when the economy last was doing well, but not all the lots were fulled up.
“Now, we’re seeing that people are going back and filling those up. There were cul-de-sacs that might have had one or two houses on them for a long time, that are now just about filled up. And that’s happening all over Hamilton.”
That progress will mean more neighbors for the Foxes.
“We just keep watching the growth and waiting to see when these houses across the street will start going up,” Chrissy Fox said. “It’s actually pretty exciting to me. We’re waiting for some neighbors. It’s good to see progress.”
“In the past 12 months, even the houses that haven’t been sold yet are being built to sell,” Rob Fox said. “That’s an indication of the faith that the builders have in the market. These lots sat vacant for years around here, and this subdivision just kind of laid dormant for a while.”
Robert Carr, owner of Robert Carr Construction LLC, said he went about 10 years without building a new home.Instead, he worked on remodeling or additions to existing houses.
“We’ve done about 12 or 13 the past three years,” he said. “The ones I’m building, they’re patio homes for older people. A lot of people are downsizing.”
Carr said he was approached by an old friend from Hamilton who wanted to downsize and asked Carr to build him a home in the Washington Estates subdivision.
“They’re nice little homes,” Carr said. “I decided to buy a bunch of lots and stay right in there, because I thought it was a good thing. There’s a good demand for that.”
The man didn’t want to maintain a lawn anymore, and the homeowners’ association takes care of that for him, Carr said.
While some people moving into the new homes are Hamiltonians making changes into newer houses, Carr said his customers aren’t all that way.
“It’s pretty much a mix,” he said.
One woman was from Ross. A couple others were from Liberty Township who wanted to downsize.
“There’s a lot of upgrades in the houses we’re doing,” Carr said. “They’re real nice houses,” with 1,900 square feet, and sell between $200,000 and $250,000, he said.
“They’re pretty much ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant — there’s no steps,” he said. “The type of houses I’m building, there’s not a lot of options out there.”
Bill Kugler, of Bowling & Kugler Realty, said he sees a number of moderately priced new homes going in, which can be appealing to first-time buyers or others who are looking to move up from houses worth $80,000-$90,000.
“There are lots that have been sitting here on the West Side,” Kugler said. “They just built an affordable house, and that’s what drove Hamilton itself.”
Those housing starts do not include two significant multi-housing-unit developments that received building permits in late 2017: the 102-apartment Marcum project downtown, which also will include restaurants and a salon, and the 119-unit Clover Communities senior-living project behind the Meijer store on the West Side, Wilson said.
Meanwhile, developer ARK Investment Partners plans to build 204 market-rate, two-bedroom apartments near Miami University’s Hamilton campus and the Vora Technology Park in 15 three-story buildings on land owned by the city of Hamilton. That is between the city’s Second Ward and Lindenwald neighborhoods, where a dense mix of businesses and residences is envisioned.
City officials believe after those apartments are built, new businesses will appear nearby that will serve them, as well as those at Miami and Vora.
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