During a joint Rotary Club and chamber of commerce breakfast on Tuesday, real estate executive Frank Norton Jr. gave his annual economic outlook and spoke about the future of housing in northern Georgia.
Norton suggested during his talk at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame that an undersupply of houses under $450,000 in Northeast Georgia should be one of the county's top concerns.
"[Dawson County] house prices will continue to go up," Norton said. "Until we end up with a major housing boom again, expect housing supplies to be four to four and a half months of supply for the next eight years."
Norton said that Dawson County needs to attract the right kinds of industry and think hard about government-induced housing costs to help keep housing affordable for the people who live in the county.
Norton said that the county needs to try to attract corporate, technical, white-collar jobs along the Ga. 400 corridor as opposed to manufacturing and industrial like the I-85 corridor.
"We have the ability in Ga. 400 to take the virgin land that we have and attract more and more corporate white collar business," Norton said. "That's who we are. You're going to have a house price that's bigger and higher priced than Gwinnett County. Not 20 years from now, within three years. That's moving up in this direction."
Norton also lamented government-induced housing costs.
The amount to develop a lot of land is around $32,000 in Dawson County. That's not the cost of the land or the cost of building materials; it's the price to develop the land.
"That's why everyone is trying to buy those vacant developed lots," Norton said.
Norton also said that 36 percent of the cost of a house today is government induced expenses as outlined by county codes, as well as the international building code.
"[Adopting the international building code] is the worst thing we could have done," Norton said. "There are now layers and layers of bureaucracy to building a simple house. We need to understand the unintended consequences of government-influenced housing costs if we're going to provide affordable housing."
The average house price in Georgia is $228,000, a number Norton suggested is not affordable for the everyday person.
"Affordable is by my definition a teacher at Dawson County High School, married to one of your public safety officials," Norton said. "Can they afford $228,000? Where are our children going to live?"
Norton said that to address that problem, northeast Georgia needs to be thinking big.
"Some 65 years ago someone said, ‘You know, there is a hole in North Georgia and if we dam it in Buford we can fill it and we can create Lake Lanier,'" Norton said. "Someone 40 years ago said we need to get all of those people in Roswell and Alpharetta to Atlanta, and we have Ga. 400. Those were all big thinking people. There was a big-thinking company who said we need to place an outlet mall somewhere on that Ga. 400 before there is people. And that is leading $450 per square foot of sales revenue, right over there, per year. What's our next big idea?"