If Density Doesn’t Change, Housing Will Sprawl and Sprawl


Sure, everyone has heard that the Williamson County housing market is hot, but the county is a big place.

Different parts of the county are developing more than others, as we are about six years into an up-cycle in the housing market.

Brentwood and Franklin are almost developed out, but Nolensville and Spring Hill are still in full swing.

The local economy is all connected. Businesses want to move here, and their new employees need housing. Conversely, people see businesses and job opportunities moving to the area, and so look to Williamson County as a place to live. Underneath it all, are schools.

“The more companies I talk to, the more convinced I am that our school systems are the driving force behind business relocations and expansions to Williamson County,” said Matt Largen, CEO of Williamson, Inc. “In fact, at a recent economic development conference, one of the site location consultants on a panel said that his clients are even asking to tour elementary schools as part of the community evaluation process. Our schools systems are an economic asset to the entire Nashville region. Savannah, Georgia has a deep-water port, Jackson, Tennessee has Interstate 40 and Williamson County has Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District. Our asset is less tangible than other communities, but does not mean it is any less real.”

So as our schools bring people and businesses here, developers look elsewhere in the county to build housing as Franklin and Brentwood fill up.

“Nolensville has been the quickest growing part of the county, growing 156 percent in I think the past four years,” said David Logan, president of the Williamson County Association of REALTORS.

Spring Hill’s population has grown 333 percent since 2000, Nolensville 156 percent. Franklin is at 58.6  percent, Brentwood 72 percent, Fairview 33 percent. Meanwhile, Forest Hills is at 7 percent and Oak Hill is 4.4.

“There is just no more land to develop,” said Logan. Brentwood and Franklin are nearing the same point.

“But Spring Hill and Nolensville are leading the charge. They are by far the fastest growing in the last 15 years.  And it seems like that is continuing. It is just a matter of available land, where can you buy affordable land, It is pushing farther out.”

He said that housing grows out in concentric circles around Nashville, with growth pushing out to the next circle first usually in the piece-of-pie-shaped corridor between Murfreesboro and Nashville.

“The growth corridor in middle Tennessee has always been down I-24 then I- 65 South- that pie there has always been prime hot spot,” he said. “So it will push out there first and then it will drop south then over west of I-65, then come back up the eastern side. North and northwest of Nashville will be the slowest.”

In Williamson County specifically, growth happens first east of I-65 then it pushes west. After that it goes south.

“I really sometimes think we will just continue growing all the way down to the state line, and Huntsville, Alabama. Driving down to the Goose Creek bypass used to be like driving way out into the country. Now people think nothing of driving down there, and with Berry Farms coming in; it is even one of the spots now.”

“When I moved here in 1976, people thought I moved to the edge of the world, living on Concord Road. They said no one will ever come and see you.”

One of the biggest concerns for housing right now is workforce housing. The median price of a house in Williamson County, which at more than $400,000 is $100,000 higher than the national median, is literally pricing middle-class earners out of the county.

“People making a respectful $50,000 to $75,000 a year cannot afford houses at the current median,” Logan said.”Workforce housing benefits everyone, if we get more teachers, firemen and police. Those are the types of people who cannot afford a $300,000 house. They can buy closer to $250,000 at current interest rates.”

If Franklin and Brentwood, and the county as a whole, want to build more of the houses that fit that price range, the only way is to adjust density.

“One thing that will have to change is density regulations,” Logan said. “If you can go from one acre to a third or half acre lot, you would change that. it is the only answer to continuing to sprawl. I think eventually you will see that resistance break down and those rules start changing. It is happening all over Green Hills. I think you will see that in Brentwood and Franklin, because a lot is going to cost so much, building three houses where there was one is that much more affordable.”

[scroller style=”sc1″ title=”More Housing” title_size=”17″ number_of_posts=”4″ speed=”300″]