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    A house in Fredericksburg is seen with a “For Rent” sign with a rent of $1,450. — Standard-Radio Post/Samuel Sutton

Housing & Hiring

Issues go hand-in-hand as affordability challenges residents, employers

The high cost of housing in Fredericksburg not only makes it tough for new residents, but it also puts a burden on business owners.

On Main Street alone, “Help Wanted” signs are posted at every other store. Most of these business, such as Old German Bakery and Restaurant, struggle with finding full-time staff.

“We have a lot of employees working part time right now who are high school kids,” said head server Daisha Pfiester. “We have trouble finding full-timers because it’s expensive to live here.”

Pfiester, who had commuted from Kerrville for a while until she could save up money, said even though she found a place to stay, rent is still expensive. She hopes that an affordable apartment complex is constructed to help with this issue.

Down the street at West End Pizza Co., one can find a sign advertising that the business needs servers, hosts and dishwashers, with “Immediate Openings.”

 

Government employees

The high cost of living problem not only puts a burden on stores and restaurants, but also on local government organizations like the Fredericksburg Independent School District.

Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Brasher said they’ve had a lot of difficulty hiring teachers.

“We’ll hire a well-qualified teacher for a position, but they’ll end up coming back and refusing the position after trying to find a place to live,” Brasher said.

The Fredericksburg Police Department is also struggling with five open positions.

Tim Lehmberg, executive director of Gillespie County’s Economic Development Commission, said the workforce problem is a real issue and it definitely goes hand-in-hand with the area’s lack of affordable housing. And an affordable living option has been a problem since he started here more than 10 years ago.

“When talking about these problems, you can’t separate the two,” Lehmberg said.

Mimi Bartel, associate broker with Century 21 The Hills Realty, confirmed the lack of affordable housing by saying they have trouble finding homes under $250,000 for their clients. If a home is listed, it’s usually contracted quickly.

“It feels like Fredericksburg is growing faster than we can keep up with at the time,” Bartel said.

There are currently 13 homes on the market in Fredericksburg, Bartel said. Three of these are manufactured (mobile) homes, four are condos and four are under contract.

To tie into these numbers, most of the city’s apartments are at full capacity, according to an Existing MultiFamily Housing report from May.

 

Local efforts

The lack of affordable housing is an issue, but it isn’t going unnoticed.

City manager Kent Myers said the city is working with several realtors and housing developers to bring more affordable housing to the area.

For example, they partnered with Mimi Bartel, Nicole Bartel and Kenneth Treibs in 2018 to create the Beginnings Subdivision, which hopes to bring several homes under $250,000.

Another new subdivision, known as the Dale Crenwelge Subdivision, is planning to keep the price down by building on over 400 smaller lots of 4,500 square feet, which would help keep the price down because it keeps land costs down. Penick Property is also doing this with about 100 lots.

Polly Rickert, who owns Dogologie, is also trying to help with this with her nonprofit agency, Haus Verein Housing Development.

Myers said the city also passed an ordinance recently that will waive the impact fees for affordable housing. This means if a developer or homeowner builds a house and is able to keep its value under $250,000, then it qualifies for waiver of the $6,000 fee.

 

Plans

To help with apartment capacity, MacDonald Companies plans to add additional apartments to its 180 new units it has constructed over the past four years. Vineyard Crossing also plans to add 24 additional units next to its current location.

“The problem of affordable housing isn’t unique to Fredericksburg. Virtually all cities across the country are facing this problem,” Myers said. “We’re not unique in dealing with this problem.”

Myers also wanted to let people know that while it’s not an uncommon problem, that doesn’t mean the city isn’t taking it seriously.

“We are making strides and we are progressing and addressing this, but it’s going to take a while to come up with all the different solutions to this problem,” Myers said. “I would encourage people to be patient and work with the Chamber of Commerce, because the only way we’re going to solve this problem is by all of us working together.”

Lehmberg reassured that work is being done, but also said everyone needs to work together and continue to think outside the box to solve this problem.

One piece of advice he likes to offer to businesses and organizations is developing workforce housing. He said if a business has the ability to create workforce housing, or has the means to do so by partnering with another business or organization with the same problem, then the business should look into it.

While Lehmberg is hopeful that more progress will be made on solving this issue in the next two years, he isn’t naïve enough not to realize this issue may never be fixed.

Nonetheless, he said he and other organizations will continue to work on it. It’s just going to take some creativity.

Fredericksburg Standard

P.O. Box 1639
Fredericksburg, TX 78624-4228
830-997-2155