Sound Strategy: Greater Outer Banks housing issues will mean fewer employees, longer commutes, higher prices

Sound Strategy: Greater Outer Banks housing issues will mean fewer employees, longer commutes, higher prices

September 4th, 2023

Let’s start this week’s conversation with both a sense of the passage of time – Happy Labor Day out there – and a relatively welcome sigh of relief given Idalia’s potential. Stay safe out there!

But to our point.

Strategy is all about making imperfect decisions about the future, and as we consider the future it’s all too tempting to share imprecise predictions about what can, may, or should happen.

The challenge in those predictions is that we’re tempted, by our very nature, to have a bias around the future we’d like to see as compared to the future based on what is occurring in reality today.

Said differently, it’s critical to envision the future based not on our bias but on our honed ability to see the present moment clearly for what it is as opposed to what we wish it would be.

Take regional labor market housing, for example–despite all the debate and discussions around the topic, the uncomfortable truth is this: If we wanted it, we’d have it.

It’s a simple zoning change, and then the private market would take care of the rest.

Yet, no changes have been made. And the reason for that, in a moment of candor, is that we simply don’t want to make them.

Neither Dare County or Currituck County have made much, if any, progress on the topic and that’s not to cast blame – for a complex variety of reasons – it’s just not here and won’t be in the short-term.

That’s the clarity of the present moment, and if we consider our future plans and predictions around that clarity we’re left to consider a few things.

The future of the Outer Banks is fewer employees and much higher costs. Period.

For the employees who remain, they’ll have to be paid much more and those higher labor costs will, as they always do, be borne by the goods-and-services buying consumer.

In our overwhelmingly service-oriented economy across our region, if the costs of those services are driven by labor than by extension the services themselves will be at structurally higher rates for the next decade and beyond.

Conversely, the future of true labor market housing is Elizabeth City, Camden, and the Hampton Roads area. Period.

With median home prices in both Dare and Currituck surprisingly high (even on the mainland, Currituck median home prices approach and exceed a half million dollars), neither Dare or Currituck have the capacity for labor market housing or, in effect, further economic development.

There is most likely a great deal of debate around those statements, but the facts remain (of note, neither Dare, Currituck, or Camden has a currently staffed economic developer position).

In short, we’re at a crossroads on the housing subject overall and perhaps we’re ready to just recognize the truth for what it is–whether it’s right or wrong–and just move forward with that understanding.

Perhaps, in a strategic sense, the debate about should we or shouldn’t we is actually less important than what is, in other words, the future we bequeath to coming generations won’t reflect the debate any more so than our present challenges reflect the debates of previous generations.

Our current challenges, in this moment, reflect only what is. And so shall it be for the next generation whether we like it or not.

WOBX Publisher Clark Twiddy is the author of Outer Banks Visionaries:  Building North Carolina’s Oceanfront which is now available at local bookstores and online.  This is his second book about the Outer Banks. “Sound Strategy”, a weekly commentary from Twiddy, features issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.

Share this Article

Subscribe for Daily Updates

Invalid email address
Send this to a friend