From Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle to Ponca City in the north of the state, significant permanent population growth and workforce housing demands are exceeding the housing supply, said Dr. Kay Decker. Decker is a professor of sociology, and chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva.
"There is an acute problem," Decker said during a legislative study on rural housing needs. "We are sending payroll out of state," Decker said in a recent article for The Republic.
Decker, along with rural Oklahoma business advocates recently made their way to the capital to tell state lawmakers the housing shortage is a road block for growth.
Vicki Ayers-McCune, the executive director of the Panhandle Regional Economic Development Coalition, said expansion of wind energy facilities in the far western Panhandle is expected to create hundreds of permanent jobs that will put even more pressure on the region's short supply of single-family homes and rental units.
"We're in a huge, desperate need," Ayers-McCune said. "We're still way behind on housing."
Kay Stinson is the vice president of human resources at Seaboard Foods, a pork producer and processor that is Guymon's largest employer. Stinson said housing for the plant's 3,300 workers is one of the company's biggest concerns. At least 550 Seaboard employees already commute from communities in Kansas or Texas because they can't find suitable housing in Oklahoma.
"The High Plains is a hopping place right now. Housing is an issue," Stinson said.
Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, requested the legislative study. Jackson told lawmakers he is looking for ways to encourage builders to construct affordable housing in rural Oklahoma. He authored a bill to create an Oklahoma income tax credit similar to the federal housing tax credit passed the House earlier this year but was laid over in the Senate.
Under Jackson's bill, the amount of state tax credits would equal the annual federal low-income housing tax credits available to Oklahoma for the same year. In 2012, $9.2 million in federal low-income housing tax credits was awarded for Oklahoma projects.