Tarrant's go-go housing market dissolved into vacancies, Census shows

Posted Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

New 2010 Census figures released today starkly illustrate the reverberations of the recession and the accompanying housing woes in some Tarrant County cities.

The percentage of vacant houses shot up in the tier of fast-growing suburban cities that ring Fort Worth, such as Burleson, Crowley and Mansfield, where subdivisions mushroomed during the go-go days of development that skidded to a halt in 2008.

And in Fort Worth, which added neighborhoods left and right in its northern reaches over the decade, 1 in 10 housing units is now vacant, the census shows.

Economic stress may also contribute to sizable increases in some cities in the number of homes occupied by renters. In Mansfield, more than 1 in 5 housing units is now renter-occupied; a decade earlier, it was 1 in 8. Keller doubled its percentage of renters.

The effect of foreclosures and vacant homes is being felt across Mansfield, said Mauro Ramirez, a loan originator for Premier Nationwide Lending.

"I wish I could say there is one area in Mansfield that has been spared, but it is just not so. Foreclosures have been across the board. The inventories are getting humongous," Ramirez said.

In Burleson, Kevin and Kay Mann felt the impact when they decided to put their home on the market.

"Our value was a ton lower, and that was disappointing," Kay Mann said.

A neighboring home, she noted, was a HUD house, and two across the street are empty rental homes with neglected landscaping. "It's distressing," she said.

Still, the couple was encouraged when two prospective buyers showed interest shortly after the home was listed.

Vacant housing

All Tarrant-area cities with populations of 20,000 or more saw increases in the percentage of vacant housing. Fort Worth led with about 10 percent of its dwellings empty -- about 28,000 units. A decade before, it was less than 8 percent.

Among the highest concentrations of reported vacancies, with at least 25 units, were the condos atop the Omni Fort Worth Hotel downtown. The hotel opened in 2009; at census time in 2010, about 94 percent, or 79 of 84 units, were vacant.

A company official said Wednesday that because she was on vacation, she did not have access to information on whether additional units have sold since the census. However, property records show that a total of 15 condos have been sold.

The new Museum Place on West Seventh Street was 91 percent vacant -- 30 of 33 units -- at the time of the census. The development is in an 11-acre urban village that includes luxury condos, office space and shops.

Arlington almost doubled its vacant housing over the decade. It went from about 6,000 vacant units to about 12,000, census data shows.

The census data show that housing vacancies in Burleson are up 282 percent, from 184 vacancies in 2000 to 703 in 2010. Following close behind are Crowley (up 212 percent) and Mansfield (up 175 percent).

The three middle-class cities, which have reputations for good schools, attracted hordes of first-time buyers drawn by a sea of homes built over the decade.

"It's more affordable here, and for a while there were so many new subdivisions you couldn't keep up," said Jody Buening, a Re/Max Associates broker. "People acted like it was never going to stop."

Colleyville and Watauga reported some of the lowest vacancies, at just over 3 percent. Keller saw less than a 1 percent increase in its vacancy rate, even as its housing stock grew by more than 50 percent, the data show.

Some smaller cities seeing big boosts in vacancies include Richland Hills (up 151 percent), Saginaw (up 149 percent) and Benbrook (up 140 percent).

Rental housing

Tarrant County is still dominated by homeownership, but it is becoming more common to find renters, even in affluent suburbs.

Mansfield saw rental property grow 230 percent, from about 1,200 units to about 3,900. Rental properties in Keller increased 227 percent, from about 650 units to more than 2,100.

Despite that growth, rentals are still a small percentage of the overall housing in the cities. In Keller, 16 percent of dwellings were rented, up from 7 percent in 2000. In Mansfield, 21 percent of units were rented, compared with 13 percent.

At 55 percent, Euless has the highest ratio of rental units in Tarrant County. Of the city's 21,531 dwellings, 11,787 are rented.

In Haltom City, renters live in 45 percent of housing units, up from 40 percent a decade earlier. In Grapevine, 42 percent of housing units are rentals, compared with 35 percent in 2000.

In other cities, economic stress may also be reflected by increases in the number of families that double up in a household.

"We're seeing people getting more creative in their living arrangements," Ramirez said. "People are taking on roommates and moving back with families, especially people who were foreclosed."

In Forest Hill, 6 percent of households now include parents, siblings or other relatives of the head of household. That's up from 4 percent in 2000. That was the highest percentage of any area city.

In Crowley, 444 households now include extended family members, up from 147 in 2000. That represents only 3 percent of households, though.

River Oaks went from 244 households with extended families, to 365; White Settlement from 453 to 637.

But while Fort Worth showed an overall increase in the number of households with extended family members -- 32,510 households, compared with 28,094 a decade earlier -- because of housing growth the change represents a slight drop in the percentage of all households with extended family.

'It's distressing'

Back in Burleson, vacant homes are increasingly evident in some neighborhoods, though the city is still bustling.

"Burleson is by no means destitute," said Buening, although she acknowledges the spike in foreclosures and a slowdown in sales.

Kevin Mann shrugs off the situation. "It's everywhere; people are crying the blues everywhere," he said.

Down the street from the Manns, the Duncan family is moving because of a job opportunity, and the sale of their home is pending, Alyssa Duncan said.

"We were lucky," she said. "We felt relieved. I think the foreclosures are a real concern for people. My dad felt like the neighborhood was going downhill because of them."

A mile away, Brian Butcher is packing up his family after selling his tidy home in one day. They're moving into an apartment while a new home in Burleson is built.

"With growth comes good and bad. Burleson is probably the most impacted blue-collar community in North Texas," he said, noting that many mortgages were based on two incomes and when one job was lost, the family was in financial distress.

"A lot of it was the banks' fault," Butcher said. "They gave out loans they shouldn't have. People got greedy."

Staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report.

City

2010 population

2000 vacancies

2010 vacancies

2000 rentals

2010 rentals

Fort Worth

741,206

8%

10%

44%

41%

Arlington

365,438

5

8

45

43

North Richland Hills

63,343

4

6

33

36

Mansfield

56,368

3

4

13

21

Euless

51,277

5

8

56

55

Bedford

46,979

4

6

45

44

Grapevine

46,334

5

6

35

42

Haltom City

42,409

5

8

40

45

Keller

39,627

4

4

7

16

Hurst

37,337

4

7

34

35

Burleson

36,690

2

5

24

23

Southlake

26,575

3

4

4

6

Watauga

23,497

2

3

15

20

Colleyville

22,807

2

3

3

5

Benbrook

21,234

4

7

34

31

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981

Darren Barbee, 817-390-7126

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?