Priced out of Jax: Build-to-Rent communities growing in Northeast Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In our “Priced out of Jax” series, Action News Jax is investigating what residents face when it comes to finding affordable or available housing. As the housing shortage continues, here’s a growing option that offers families all the perks of a brand new home without the long-term commitment.

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Right now, a quarter of all single-family homes in Duval County are owned by real estate investment companies, according to Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland. Last month, Holland told Action News Jax he expects the trend to continue.

Holland said, “As that number keeps increasing and maybe eventually gets to a third of the properties, they will have an impact on the market as they put them back on the market for sale.”

But many of these companies are not looking for potential home buyers. They want renters, and they’re building entire communities just for them. The website Build For Rent Homes lists more than a dozen companies that build new homes for rent, including California-based American Homes 4 Rent, or AH4R. Brent Landry is Senior Vice President of Development for AH4R.

Landry said, “You can really create an attractive neighborhood, so folks can enjoy all the benefits of a brand-new single-family home, but also enjoy the flexibility and low-maintenance lifestyle of leasing.”

The company has several communities across the country and in our area, including Black Creek Village in Green Cove Springs and the newly-built Hilsdale Estates on Jacksonville’s Southside.

Landry said, “Our typical resident stays with us for over three years, and the household income for one of our residents averages north of $100,000 a year.”

Landry said their communities are designed to blend in with existing neighborhoods. “No different than when you drive by a brand-new car lot, you can’t pick out which cars are for sale and which are for lease.”

In the subdivision next to the rental homes in Hilsdale Estates, Action News Jax found similar-looking homes estimated between $250,000 and $500,000 on Zillow.

At the end of October, the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, or NEFAR, said there were 3,252 homes available to buy in the five counties they monitor: Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Putnam and Nassau. At the current pace, NEFAR said those homes could sell out in a little under a month and a half. NEFAR President Missi Howell said rental communities play a part in filling the void.

“Sometimes finding the house to buy isn’t working out. So, then the next best thing (is), ‘well, at least let’s rent something until we can find something to buy.’ And so rental communities really do help accommodate the need.” Howell added, “It puts a roof over somebody’s heads, and I don’t say that lightly.”

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Rent prices across the country are rising, but a recent study released by the Business Journal found Jacksonville was ranked third out of the top 10 metro areas nationwide for rent increases, with prices up 23% from a year ago. The study says the average monthly rental rate in Jacksonville as of October was $1,353.