Champaign housing market remains stable

By Marie Wilson

The national economy may be in decline, but that does not mean the housing market in Champaign is in trouble.

The market is feeling the effects of the national downturn in housing prices, sales and construction, said Shawn Luesse, president of business development for Devonshire Group. But the impact is less pronounced here because of the financial stability the University provides.

“Because we’re protected by the University, the economy doesn’t reach the peaks or lows that the rest of the country will,” Luesse said. “Housing is just one component of the spin-off provided by the University.”

The large presence of stable jobs in the medical field also helps the Champaign economy remain less volatile than national trends, said Craig Rost, deputy city manager for development.

“We have a lot of medical employment here that’s stable,” Rost said. “And of course the student population helps the economy irresponsive to other things.”

Despite the buffering effect of the University and its students on the local economy, the housing market is not immune to the national problems of too many homes and falling prices, Luesse said.

While the area may already have too many homes, a lot of construction is going on in the multi-family residence business, Rost said.

Builders of large-scale apartment complexes such as the 309 E. Green St. building and the 310 Burnham building are constructing these residences at their own risk, said Michael La Due, Dist. 2 Champaign City Council member.

“There’s talk of too many apartments,” La Due said. “But this is the largest freshmen class ever at the University, and the population of the University is the biggest it’s ever been, so I think they’re banking on that.”

Even with many apartment complexes being built, Rost said construction plans are down overall in the city of Champaign.

“There’s fewer projects planned now than would be typical,” he said.

Areas with large supplies of housing and falling prices create an ideal situation for buyers.

“The biggest issue any buyer will face as far as selling and buying home…is getting credit,” Luesse said.

He said banks are enforcing new limits on credit to ensure creditors will be able to pay back their loans. This credit situation and the recent increase in home foreclosures are also national trends, Luesse added.

“There’s nothing in this community that says ‘This is why we’ve got a downturn,'” he said.

As the national forces sort themselves out, Luesse expects the Champaign housing market to begin a slow climb back to a normal level of home construction and sales.