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Housing growth heading south by southwest

While all of Hernando County is seeing new housing being built, those areas are getting the greatest boom.

Published February 15, 2004

The pace of housing development in Hernando County is, in a word, blistering.

Figures from the county Planning Department make that abundantly clear. And in all the surging growth, there are a few trends that might surprise.

In 2000, there were 1,362 new housing units - defined as single-family homes, mobile homes or apartments - in Hernando. A steady increase in the number followed, and in 2003, there were 2,266 new units, an increase of 66.4 percent from 2000.

A growing number of those dwellings are not single-family homes, but units in apartment complexes. In 2000, 39 apartment units were created; in 2003 the number was 239, a sixfold increase.

While figures from 2003 are not yet compiled, 2002 figures indicate that the new housing units are predominantly being created in existing subdivisions, and are not due to new developments, as fast and furious as those are coming.

For example, of the 1,770 new units in 2002, a full 61 percent were in five existing developments or communities. Hernando Beach saw 61 new units, Silverthorn 79, Royal Highlands 87, Seven Hills and the Wellington 107, and Spring Hill a whopping 751.

"People don't think of it when they think of growth," county demographic specialist David Miles said. "But, my goodness, we have had a hell of a lot of infill in that area."

Miles suggested much of the recent housing boom in Hernando can be attributed to wariness over investing in an uncertain stock market. Real estate, he said, seemed safer.

Yet with markets indicating a rebound, Miles and others interviewed by the Times said it's a safe bet the housing market here will continue to surge. There are too many factors at work spurring housing growth to expect a slowdown.

Consider the new developments that are to be under construction in 2004:

There is the Villages at Avalon, 650 homes and 219 apartments on 374 acres west of Anderson Snow Road and north of County Line Road; Sterling Hill, 1,250 homes on 515 acres spanning eastern Elgin Boulevard in Spring Hill; Trillium, up to 862 homes on 287 acres near the Suncoast Parkway north of County Line Road; and Southern Hills Plantation, 999 homes to be built on 1,600 acres that developer LandMar Group LLC owns on the south side of Brooksville.

See a pattern?

"What's been popping is the southern, southwestern part of the county," county planner Christopher Mettler said.

Depending on your attitude toward development, you have the Suncoast Parkway to blame or to thank for this trend.

Expect further growth to either side of the toll road, Mettler said. Think of it as a housing delivery system for buyers to the south.

"It's totally opened up with the parkway," Mettler said. "Now you can deliver the product to the people."

According to real estate agent Buddy Selph, the combination of inexpensive land, the parkway and proximity to urban areas means the boom times are here for some time. Prices for existing homes are going up, he said, and lots of new housing units are in the pipeline.

"I think Brooksville and Spring Hill are going to merge along U.S. 41," Selph said. "That's where the development is going to be in the foreseeable future."

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]

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