Marietta renters increase, as population drops

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Phyllis Brake, real estate broker for Silverheels Property Management, goes down the steps at the company's headquarters on Third Street in Marietta Monday. Brake said the company's inventory of rental housing has grown over the past year.

The population of Marietta has gradually declined since the 2000 Census, and the rate of owner-occupied housing in Marietta is dropping even faster.

Data from the 2017 five-year American Community Survey indicates that in 16 years, the number of owner-occupied homes in the city has declined by 361, while the number of renters has increased by 221. That’s enough to shift the rates for each group by 5 percent, meaning more than 45 out of 100 households in Marietta are now renters.

The trend is subject to many interpretations.

New housing is not a significant factor in Marietta — only 3 percent of the housing stock was built in the past 20 years, and more than half was built before 1960 — and multi-family housing makes up about 28 percent of the occupied housing, according to the 2017 American Community Survey.

Rachel Garshick-Kleit is head of the city and regional planning section at the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University. She said many market factors can drive a tendency toward rental in small cities with diminishing populations.

“Generally, when you see an increase in rental units or conversions (from owner-occupied to renter-occupied housing), it can be low demand in the real estate market, or people who want to sell housing but can’t get the price they want, so they rent it,” she said. “It could also be an indicator of increasing economic inequality, with a few people who can afford to buy and others who would like to but don’t have the income or the credit scores. You also see people who were young when they witnessed the housing crisis and saw what that did, and aren’t interested in buying. Also, if you have a lot of population with debt, like credit card or student loans, they’re not going to purchase in those conditions.”

Garshick-Kleit said much depends on the economic condition and the long-term intentions of the renters.

“It really depends on who these folks are. Renters are generally more mobile, and your city is shrinking, economically there might not be a lot going on,” she said.

The increasing availability of rental property might also be driven by aging people who are leaving homes they’ve owned for a long time but can’t sell them at the price they want, she said.

Phyllis Brake is real estate broker for Silverheels Property Management Co., the largest rental management company in Marietta. She said last week that the company now manages 275 units, up from 268 last year. Although Silverheels is focused on apartments, it also manages detached rental housing.

“In reality, the biggest part is duplexes,” she said. “Those historic old houses lend themselves to conversion, it’s just a matter of installing another kitchen and bath.”

Brake said she believes there is a solid market in Marietta for high-end apartment units with amenities such as a pool and exercise facilities.

“I know some developers are working on those, but I don’t know what the completion plans are,” she said. “People who get transferred here often are professionals, looking for something like that, and they prefer to rent for a period of time to assess the neighborhoods, then sometimes they’ll buy. And I would say the younger generation gravitates to apartment living, with amenities such as a pool or tennis court.”

Ned Hill, a professor of economic development and public policy and city and regional planning at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at OSU, said an increasing level of renters isn’t necessarily an alarming indication but it might mean the city should take a look at tenant stability and its effect on neighborhoods, particularly the condition of houses.

“One thing we’ve seen, particularly in municipalities that are losing population, is that frequently a house will go into an estate that gets picked up by a son or daughter in the family, and they hold onto it as a rental. Then there’s the whole issue where the impact becomes code enforcement, and you need to work so that you don’t end up with lots of deteriorating housing in neighborhoods,” he said. “The flip side is that if you get too aggressive, there’s an uptick in abandonments because the rental income doesn’t justify the cost.”

Hill noted that before World War II, long-term rental was a far more common form of housing tenure than ownership and resulted in the same sort of neighborhood stability. The key is maintaining property values and the sort of civic engagement that long-term residents bring to neighborhoods, school districts and cities, and part of that is economic – balancing affordable rent with the kind of return landlords need to keep their properties in good condition.

Housing in Marietta

2000 Census

•Population: 14,515.

•Total housing units: 6,609.

•Vacant: 705 (10.7 percent).

•Owner occupied: 3,493 (59.2 percent of occupied housing).

•Rented: 2,411 (40.8 percent of occupied housing).

2017 American Community Survey, 5 year estimates for July 2016

•Population: 13,912.

•Total housing units: 6,455.

•Change: -154 (-2.3 percent).

•Vacant: 691 (10.7 percent).

•Owner occupied: 3,132 (54.3 percent of occupied housing).

•Rented: 2,632 (45.7 percent of occupied housing).

• Change in number of occupied housing units: -154.

• Change in rentals: +221.

• Change in owner-occupied: -361.

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