PANAMA CITY BEACH — There is no question that the past decade brought a surge of new housing units to Bay County.
According to the 2020 Census, housing units in Bay County increased by more than 3,000, or more than 3%, from 2010 to 2020, jumping from 99,650 to 102,971. The number of occupied units also went up by 2.5% from 68,438 to 70,134 and vacant units climbed by more than 5% from 31,212 to 32,837. The gains were maintained despite Category 5 Hurricane Michael blasting the county in October 2018, damaging or destroying thousands of homes in the process.
Among the local cities that experienced huge growth during the past few years was Panama City Beach, where 595 single-family homes and more than 760 apartment units were built between January 2016 and December 2019, information provided by the city states.
These developments have a combined valuation of almost $274 million.
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“I think that it’s good that people are coming,” said Beach Councilman Michael Jarman, who added that the city’s population has increased by about 50% since 2010. “People have realized that they can live in a place where they always vacation. I think a large part of the influx of people is due to that. They realized they could live in their own little piece of paradise.”
The Census also shows Bay County’s population went up by almost 4% from 2010 to 2020, increasing from 168,852 to 175,216. The area’s diversity index — a zero to 100 scale used to calculate the likelihood two people will be ethnically different — also went up by a dozen points.
According to Debbie Ashbrook, CEO of the Central Panhandle Association of Realtors, the median household income for the area is about $53,000. This means “affordable housing for most” Bay County residents is between about $160,000 to $170,000.
While Ashbrook noted “it feels wonderful to see” the uptick in housing units during the past decade, she added that CPAR’s multiple listing service shows there currently are no single-family homes under construction in Bay County that will sell for less than $200,000.
However, CPAR’s MLS does not track every new construction project, but rather a representative portion to provide a “good glimpse” of the market, she said.
Information provided by CPAR from its MLS states that 165 homes across the county either are planned, under constriction or were built since 2020. The average price is about $529,000, with the most expensive valued at $5.5 million and the cheapest at $230,000.
Ashbrook also said any time an existing home enters the market within the price range she described as “affordable,” it sells very quickly.
“Because of the high demand and high cost of materials affecting our market right now, new construction homes are more frequently coming on the market at a higher price,” she wrote in an email. “The demand is definitely there for more affordable housing.”