Veteran population drops in Montgomery County over rising house prices
CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – Montgomery County saw a sharp dip in veteran residents in 2020, according to a recent report from the Montgomery County Veterans Services Organization.
The county ranks 10th nationally for veteran population by percentage (17.64%), totaling 30,985 veteran residents in 2020; however, that’s a steep drop from 36,873 the year prior. The sudden decline marks a shifting trend for the county, which had steadily climbed in veteran population since 2015.
VSO Director Andrew Kester discussed the decline during his annual report to the Montgomery County Commission on Tuesday.
Housing market competition
Kester, whose office serves 50 to 60 veterans each day, attributed the decline in part to the increasingly competitive local housing market. As more people move to Clarksville and housing becomes more competitive, many veterans are being left behind.
Veteran’s Affairs offers assistance to veterans in securing home loans without a down-payment by acting as a co-signer. However, as housing prices skyrocket, veterans are losing this vital assistance, because VA loans can’t support housing prices that are above market value.
“This past year, a lot of people are moving in and offering more than market value, and you get in a pricing battle. The VA just won’t pay for that, so veterans are forced to use more traditional loans with no money down,” Kester said.
Christian Black, president of the Clarksville Association of Realtors, told Clarksville Now there aren’t enough homes in the market for the number of buyers, and that drives up prices.
“A lot of people are paying cash out of pocket to go above appraised value just to get the house,” Black said.
Black estimated Montgomery County’s current housing inventory is around 350 available homes. He would like to see that increase to 800 to 900 by the beginning of next year.
“That would be a better balance. If we could get up to 900, that would take a little pressure off of the buyers,” Black said. “With the PCS season getting behind us, maybe the buyer demand turns down a little bit. And I think the builders are pushing forward at a really good pace. We are going to kind of have to build ourselves out of this hole in order to get back to a normal market.”
Impact on the community
Veterans have a marked economic impact on Montgomery County. In 2020, the VSO reported $422.1 million in economic impact through veteran compensation, a $34 million increase from 2019.
While not all of that money was awarded to Montgomery County veterans (the MCVSO represents some veterans outside Montgomery County) Kester told Clarksville Now that veterans’ compensation is a benefit to the local economy.
“That’s a tax-free benefit, and that money is used in Montgomery County for cars, houses, education, entertainment dollars and small business. It’s a large benefit for Montgomery County, and it’s residents,” Kester said.
“We are a very veteran-centric community. We have services for veterans, and a lot of them stay here and build businesses. This could affect us long run, or it could just be a blip on the radar.”