Several members of a committee tasked with economic development believe that housing should be more affordable for young professionals. 

Oconee Chamber Chairwoman Tammy Gilland wants her 25-year-old daughter, a nurse for Piedmont Athens Regional, to own a house in Oconee.

But the current residential market, marked by a high-demand of both palatial and modest-size homes, makes that difficult. 

“Do you want your children to be here?” asked consultant Craig Lesser. “Who is going to buy your house one day?” 

Gilland said a dearth of housing for people starting their careers is a concern for her as a parent. Brad Tucker, a member of the Planning Commission, noted that housing preferences change over time. 

“The Millennials and Zoomers feel differently about a suburban lifestyle,” he said, opining that families 20 years from now may not want to live in homes pushing $1 million. “I recognize that my children don’t want to live in the same kind of house that I live in.” 

Gilland said that many retirees, a growing demographic in Oconee, are seeking smaller houses, too. 

The affordability of housing is, of course, based largely on market trends, but the Board of Commissioners has had an influence too by prohibiting slab housing in subdivisions and requiring a minimum lot size of 1.5 acres for houses on septic. 

“The county for a long time has deliberately taken a particular stance on density,” said Board of Education member Tim Burgess. “I think we have to define the type of density we are willing to acknowledge and support and allow.” 

“Some of these things by definition require a level of density that we haven’t traditionally supported in this community,” Burgess continued. “Part of the challenge is to come to an acceptable approach to density that avoids issues we don’t want to happen but creates opportunities we think are necessary.”

Board of Commissioner Mark Thomas asked how should Oconee address housing and not affect the school system in a negative way. 

“That’s a big question,” he said 

Watkinsville Councilman Brian Brodrick spoke frankly about how he didn’t want to spend a majority of time on housing. 

“That’s a really complex issue,” said Bogart resident Sharon Maxey. “I don’t think it can be solved in a few meetings.” 

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