Robert Cox

Writing on the Wall

Robert Cox is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is RCox@cherryroad.com.


Trying to find home

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

"Home" is a difficult thing to define.

Depending on how you use it, that word could mean a myriad of things, from a physical building to a group of people to a place of comfort ó ďHome is where the heart is.Ē

Iíve had many homes in the past 50 years, from the trailer my parents and I lived in when I was a baby and the house where I grew up with my mother and grandparents to a veritable parade of apartments and rental houses.

From the time I left home to go to college in the fall of 1990, Iíve moved 16 times. Thatís an average of once every two years. Some of those moves were just from one house or apartment to another, but itís pretty easy to see why I hate moving.

It also explains why it takes me forever to fully unpack.

Iíve lived in Berryville now for just over a year, and Iím finally starting to feel at home. Thereís just one problem.

As that other old saying goes, ďHome is where you hang your hat.Ē Thatís fine, but no one mentions how hard it is to find a hook ó especially here.

When I moved to Berryville, I was able to rent a room in a friendís house for fairly cheap, a blessing since I was trying to pay for my motherís funeral. Iím still there at the moment, but my friend just got married and itís time for me to get out.

Since I moved in, Iíve been passively looking for a place of my home, but there was no rush. I figured Iíd lay low, build my credit and then start looking for a house to buy.

I was warned it would be a bit difficult. The housing market in Carroll County is not very robust. The number of available houses is far outstripped by the number of people looking, with many houses selling before they even get properly listed.

Those that do get listed are far outside my price range, or that of a new family looking for their first home.

No worries, I thought. Iíll just get a rental and stick to my plan. I can get out of my friendís and continue my plan. This was in November.

I can already hear some of you laughing. You can probably guess how thatís been going.

After months of searching, Iím still living in my friendís back bedroom, occasionally getting side eye from his new wife and alerts from my friend every time a new listing pops on Facebook.

Some were completely unsuitable, others were way to expensive for whatís offered and some ó well, some just had too many applicants.

I looked at an apartment in Green Forest recently ó it was too small, so small my bed wouldnít even fit in the bedroom ó and after speaking with the landlord, found out that sheíd had 55 applicants in less than 18 hours.

I also saw someone trying to rent a portable building as a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment for $975 a month ó with an additional $100 a month for electricity in the winter. I mean, it was nice looking, but come on. Thing is, with the shortage of available housing, somebody will probably take it.

When the results of the 2020 census were released, area mayors seemed disappointed in the low amount of growth in the area. I think thereís a simple reason for that. Thereís no place to call home.

Berryville ó and Carroll County in general ó has a housing shortage. Added to some of the other difficulties faced by the area, thatís the biggest inhibitor to growth.

You canít attract new businesses if there are no workers and you canít bring in more workers if there isnít any place for them to live.

Couple that with the fact that there really isnít any really easy way to get to Carroll County ó weíre not near an interstate or even a major four-lane highway ó and our area just isnít as attractive as some others.

If Carroll County leaders really want to see positive growth, they need to start addressing the housing shortage. No new people make it difficult to attract business and no new business means a lack of new jobs, which leads to people leaving.

Thatís the opposite of growth and itís not good for anyone.

As for me, well, Iím still looking for a house or apartment to rent. My hat is hanging in someone elseís home and I need a hook of my own.