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The original item was published from 3/14/2014 6:05:56 PM to 5/1/2014 12:10:01 AM.

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Posted on: March 14, 2014

[ARCHIVED] Town's Reputation Grows as Place for Young Families

Homebuilding in Holly Springs is poised to continue its multi-year upswing as the town’s reputation grows as a particularly desirable place - especially for young families - to buy a house.

Homeownership is higher in Holly Springs than anywhere else in Wake County, with 88 percent of homes occupied by the people who own them. Holly Springs also has a higher percentage of households with children than anywhere else in the county.

Recently, the consumer advocacy Web site NerdWallet ranked Holly Springs the best place for homeownership in North Carolina.

The Web site based its rankings on three criteria: Are homes available? Can you afford to live there? Is the area growing?

In 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek named Holly Springs as the “Best Place to Raise Kids in N.C.” in its annual survey of the nation’s best small towns. Bloomberg Businessweek evaluated 3,200 towns in the U.S. with populations between 5,000 and 50,000.

With so many young families being drawn to Holly Springs, Town leaders have focused on long-term strategies for providing places to play, utilities, roads, and other services.

At its annual planning retreat last month, the Town Council approved a plan for borrowing $18 million without raising taxes, understanding that some of the Town’s existing debt soon will be retired.

The money will be used for a new law enforcement center, plus transportation projects that include alleviating congestion at N.C. 55 and Avent Ferry Road. It will also go for a multi-sport stadium that is part of the athletic complex under construction on North Main Street.

Police Chief John Herring likened the cramped, former auto parts store currently serving as police headquarters as a starter home that a family has long since outgrown.

Last year, the Town’s Code Enforcement Department issued building permits for 432 single-family houses. It was the fourth consecutive annual increase since home permits hit a 16-year low in 2009 during the nationwide recession.

So far in 2014 during an especially harsh winter, the monthly average has been about 30. But that figure is expected to rise with the temperatures.

“It’ll definitely pick up when we hit the spring and summer months,” said Ricky Blackmon, Code Enforcement director.

Given subdivisions that are in the pipeline or about to enter it, Blackmon said housing permits could shoot upward to 500 or 600 for a year or two if the housing market maintains its recent strengthening.

At $89,187, the median income in Holly Springs is the third highest among municipalities in Wake County. It is higher only in Cary and Apex. In relative affordability, Holly Springs was tops in the NerdWallet survey. The consumer advocacy Web site said homeowner costs as a percentage of household income were lowest in Holly Springs at 22.4 percent.

Last fall, NerdWallet ranked Holly Springs second in N.C. in its list of best places for job-seekers. The Web site noted that Holly Springs is part of the Research Triangle and that principal employers within the town include Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

The rapidly-growing metropolitan areas of the state’s largest cities, Charlotte and Raleigh, dominated the this year’s “Best Places for Homeownership” rankings. Growth signals a robust local economy, which attracts homebuyers, NerdWallet said.

Holly Springs’ population has tripled since 2000, from 9,192 then to an estimated 29,000 today. It is the fifth largest municipality in Wake County.

The Town’s Planning and Zoning Department projects that Holly Springs’ population will exceed 36,000 by 2018. That figure is based on the amount of housing already approved and the expectation that building permits will continue to average 400-450 per year.

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