Campbell County leaders discuss state of workforce, housing

Haley Parnell
Haley Parnell
Haley is a reporter for LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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A study on housing needs and workforce across eight Northern Kentucky counties was the topic of discussion in Campbell County Thursday.

“The message out of all the data is very clear that we have to have more units of housing, mainly low-end, in the rental market if we’re going to have places for folks to live to populate our industries,” Campbell County Judge/Executive Steve Pendery said.

Northern Kentucky Area Development District, also known as NKADD, was the Northern Kentucky Housing Data Analysis administrator with the help of a national consulting firm that covered Campbell, Kenton, Boone, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Owen, and Pendleton Counties.

According to NKADD Executive Director Tara Johnson-Noem, the housing study came from a workforce conversation. Overall, findings from the regional study found that employment growth surpasses the availability of workforce housing.

Campbell County mayors, city and county staff, and state leaders contributed to conversations at the Campbell County Mayor’s meeting.

The housing study found that there are currently two jobs per person available in the region. Pendery said part of the problem is that baby boomers, who are a significant number of the population, are retiring, and the succeeding generations taking their place are smaller. To fill that hole, he said the region needs to attract talent from other communities to the area, which then factors into where those people will live.

“Having all this quantified and discussed, what was the reason for the study housing comes in because whatever you do to attract people to the area if they don’t have a place to live when they get here, we’ve got a problem,” Pendery said.

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One issue that coincides with the workforce is attainable housing—housing people are paying no more than 30% of their income. The study shows that job creation is outpacing housing within the eight counties.

“There’s more workers, people, and jobs than there are places to live that they can afford,” Johnson-Noem said.

The study showed that the supply of three to four-bedroom single-family home creation is outpacing the demand in the region. More specifically, Campbell County showed that the county is deficient in “very low-cost” one-bedrooms and has a surplus of three-plus-bedroom ownership housing.

“Single-family homes are not always aligned with the household income and size desired by our growing labor force,” Johnson-Noem said.

According to the study, 60% of the eight counties’ occupations generate an annual average salary below $60,000 (generally considered “workforce” jobs), including the current top six occupations (warehousing, teachers, temp workers, couriers, and restaurant servers.) 67% of job growth will occur in those areas over the next decade, the study showed.

The study found that in the eight counties, there are double the number of people with homes available at their income level (2.2 workforce earners per home).

Campbell’s housing stock, according to the study, contains a surplus of units in the upper-middle income ranges and a “pretty severe deficit” in affordable rental housing for lower-income households. As a result, the study said that the county continues to have much higher rates of cost-burdened renters and homeowners than other parts of the region.

Pendery said at the meeting that studies show that there are now fewer rental units in Northern Kentucky than there were a few years ago.

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“According to Stantec (the national consulting firm that worked with NKAAD), with all things considered, both units that have been taken off the market and units that have been added, we are at best the net zero and possibly below that number of available rentals region-wide,” Johnson-Noem said.

She said some of the causes are from things like larger developments being taken off the market or changes in ownership—she suggested City Heights in Covington and Victoria Square in Newport as examples. Units becoming short-term rentals and duplexes being turned into single-family homes were other reasons.

“The usual interpretation when you have affordable housing is undesirables are going to be attracted into the community, right?” Pendery said. “But there aren’t so many undesirables that they could fill all of the units of housing we need. Our sons and daughters need places to live if they’re going to live in the area and the workers we’ve been discussing.”

Campbell County Public Library Director JC Morgan asked how to tackle nimbyism when creating more affordable housing.

Johnson-Noem said having community conversations about the type of units and the people filling them is a start.

“Kind of pointing to some of those job sectors that are not able to afford the units that might not be the people that we’re thinking—that maybe a stereotype like we used to think of,” she said.

Johnson-Noem said policymakers having the full information and seeing each situation would also help. She said comprehensive plan updates are areas where cities and counties can act.

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