FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Driving around Forsyth County, it is plain to see the continuous construction of neighborhoods and office buildings.
With the county’s population growing rapidly over the past two decades, builders are working hard to keep up with demand.
But according to statistics by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau and Frank Norton, owner of the Norton Agency which studies North Georgia real estate, the labor building those homes isn’t local.
There are nearly 50,000 workers who commute into the county. Just about 55 percent of the labor force within Forsyth County is imported.
Of the residents, only 25 percent live and work in Forsyth County and 75 percent leave for work.
Those numbers are interesting in comparison to the local housing market.
“We are an importer of labor in this county,” Norton said. “We are also an importer of labor in North Fulton as well. We don’t have enough people who fit our job categories that live close by. So we have to import from Gwinnett and Cherokee where the cost of living is cheaper.”
The current median home value is just over $300,000, Norton said. But there are still more than 5,000 vacant lots in the county.
For a community to be healthy, it has to have housing at various costs, he said.
“You have to have apartments in multiple price points, some might be subsidized, traditional and luxury apartments,” Norton said. “The same thing for housing that they need entry level housing maybe mobile homes, then entry level housing which might be $150,000-250,000 so a teacher would have something affordable to buy.”
He said the county also needs executive level housing costing $250,000-700,000 and luxury housing beyond that.
But if counties don’t have multiple price points, there will still be employees coming in from outside the community, Norton said.
“Counties have to have an affordable housing solution or you’ll import all your teachers, firefighters and public safety officers,” he said. “It’s a struggle for a county like Forsyth that has such rapid growth and strong demand for executive housing to also balance that 10-15 percent of housing that still needs to be for the worker bees. The people who build the houses can’t live here.”
In February, Norton said Forsyth County seemed to have made a bad move when the county imposed a housing moratorium.
“Despite having 5,492 vacant and developed lots and 15,470 lots in zoned land future housing phases, the current political will is to shoot Forsyth in their own foot or kill the golden goose,” Norton said. “Forsyth is a fantastic, energetic, demographic and economic base boasting the highest school test scores, an average new home price of $395,538, a transportation initiative next to none and a progressively reasonably tax base.”