New Report: Gatlinburg fires intensified lack of affordable housing

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – A new study of Sevier County Housing needs found there has been a pent-up up demand for affordable housing for years, but the November fires exposed and intensified housing issues.

During the study, commissioned by Sevier County Economic Development, several employers express concerned about the ability to attract a quality workforce due in part to a lack of housing. The primary reasons for the lack of housing include lack of affordable apartments, high land values associated with the tourism market and lack of transportation.

“When we have an available apartment come open, there are waiting lists at every apartment complex in Sevier County,” said Allen Newton with the Sevier County Economic Development Council. “What happens is that apartment is vacant for two to three days then the next person on the list gets that apartment.”

Researchers found the lack of housing options has led to overcrowding in available rental units. Workers that live outside of Sevier County, but work in the county account for 43.9 percent of workers.

“Not only do we have to replace the housing that was lost, we also have to build additional housing that we can recruit an additional workforce,” said Newton. “Just about every business in Sevier County is looking for good quality people to help them.”

The study found many renters, particularly seasonal workers, are living in substandard conditions and many renters that would likely consider traditional rental housing units are living in substandard or overcrowded situations. Also, much of the workforce is working double shifts or working two jobs.

Newton says the solution to the housing problem is attracting developers. The study lists several incentives including housing vouchers, tax credits for developers and the government leasing land to developers.

More: View full report

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