Housing growth momentum builds in Milford

MILFORD — A housing boom is on the horizon for Milford as local investors set sights on new construction throughout town.

“Milford is growing and that’s a good thing. We need to grow along with Bayhealth and Nationwide,” Milford Mayor Archie Campbell said.
He added he looks forward to the challenges that come with more residents.

About 11,000 people currently reside within Milford, while more than 4,435 lots or homes are being prepared for construction through the addition of developments within city limits, according to Rob Pierce, Milford’s Planning and Development director.

The new additions to town could more than double the total number of housing units. Numbers from the 2010 U.S. Census listed 4,126 housing units within town limits and a population of 9,559. The census indicated major growth within the city of Milford as just 2,897 housing units were cited 10 years earlier.
“There’s a need for more affordable housing,” said Alexa Nanni, Ryan Homes’ sales and marketing representative, during a community meeting at the Mispillion Art League this summer.

“And we have new townhomes starting around $160,000. There’s nothing else in the area that can come around that price point for new construction … The same home we have in Milford for $179,000 can go for $250,000 in Middletown, so it’s a good location, too.”

That location is Ryan Homes’ Brookstone Trace, a 128-townhome community located in front of Milford Place along southbound Route 113 just before Pizza Palace.

Ryan Homes is just one of several developers. Other neighborhoods are in the construction phase in town, while some are ready to work toward the permitting process.
Currently, 4,435 residences have been approved to begin construction, including single-family detached homes, duplexes, townhomes, apartmentsand condominiums, according to Mr. Pierce.

An additional 1,256 homes have been proposed to city leadership, however, permits and other requirements have yet to be met as they are in the beginning stages of development.
He also said there are more than “990 plus acres of vacant residential land that could be developed for an additional 6,300 dwelling units of various types.”

According to Mr. Pierce, the following developers are actively pulling permits as their construction projects continue:
• Fork Landing with 52 single-family homes and six duplexes already constructed. There will be six more single-family homes in this development, and four more duplexes.
• Hearthstone Manor I has 84 single-family homes constructed to date, with another 94 planned. 416 condominiums have also been constructed. The developer plans another 536 to be built into the development south of town.
• Lighthouse Estates on the north side of town by Del. 1 has 40 single-family homes built with another 28 in the works.
• Cascades, a multi-family home development, has 68 apartments built and another 74 planned in the future.
• Brookstone Trace has 32 single-family homes built, with 96 more planned. There are also 24 garden apartments planned there.
• Orchard Hill, also on the south side of Milford, has 20 more single-family homes planned and 167 already built.
• West Shores at New Milford will bring another 67 single-family homes into town in addition to the 45 already built.
• Watergate, in what could be the most diverse upcoming development in Milford, will bring another 43 single-family homes to town, 48 duplexes, 58 townhomes and 80 garden apartments. They already built 71 townhomes in that area.
• Walnut Village has 39 single-family homes with another 36 planned.
• Milford Ponds – Phase I has 78 single-family homes built and 286 more to construct.
• Simpson’s Crossing is ready to begin construction with 450 single-family homes, 342 townhomes and 231 garden apartments proposed.

Mr. Pierce said approximately 200 new homes could be built in 2019, with another 200 residential units per year on average for the next 20 years if all the approved and currently proposed projects came to fruition. He noted that those estimates could vary given future economic conditions.
Local private investor Dan Bond said developments like those are needed to help the town’s continued growth.
“We have areas in the city where the housing stock needs to be improved,” he said.

He added that although he is working on his own development near Church Street along Front Street in downtown Milford that is not quite ready for occupancy yet, he already faces competition by lower prices offered by Ryan Homes’ and other competing companies.

Local Realtor and Milford native Austin Gardner-Bowler said he is excited to watch the expanded housing options find Milford.
“Milford is growing exponentially. As a Milford kid, born and raised, I’ve seen Milford’s progress over the past two decades or so. I remember when there was no Taco Bell,” he said, joking.
“I remember when there was no Royal Farms, no new overpass construction… there was nothing. But right now, Milford has the same demographics as Middletown had a decade ago. It’s growing. One thing I noted recently is that about 300 homes sold last year in Milford. This time this year, it’s projected to almost double that by the end of the year.”

According to the Delaware State Housing Authority, the real estate market in Delaware is still slowly inclining and has been since 2012. In 2018, just over 14,000 homes were sold across the state. That was a slight increase from 2017. In 2016, just over 12,000 homes were sold.

Although real estate sales in Delaware dipped to a low between 2008 and 2011 during the recession, the data indicates that sales could be reaching a high last seen in 2005 when nearly 16,000 homes were sold in the first state.
Median home prices are also increasing, offering further indication of inclining home sales.

“And Milford is kind of in a sweet spot, so to speak,” Mr. Gardner-Bowler said. “It’s close to the beach. Or you can shoot right through Harrington to go to Baltimore or Washington, D.C., or Route 113 will shoot you up to Christiana, Philadelphia and Wilmington. It’s convenient with a hometown atmosphere.”

Mark Douyard, senior physician recruiter at Bayhealth, said the new growth and housing options, with the help of developers and local realtors, will help ease the transition to a new area for some of Bayhealth’s new recruits. But more may be needed over time.

“Often times, when people come to the area, they want to rent first. And Milford doesn’t have a lot of those options. They want to get a feel for the area before they move in,” he said.

One such development in the works, Winward on the River, aims to bring those sorely needed rental options to Milford, but it will be years before that project comes to fruition fruition as they move forward in the permitting and site plan processes, according to Planning Commission Member Sara Pletcher.

In the meantime, Mr. Gardner-Bowler said new businesses such as the movie theater to be built over the next year and community activities such as Downtown Milford, Inc.’s Third Thursdays will continue to have a positive impact on the real estate market.

“We have a lot of community events and there’s new shops opening up almost every other month. It’s exciting. It’s very convenient, and we have a lot of options. There’s rapid growth here in Milford. It’s there with commercial and residential real estate,” he said. “I think people are making the investment to move into Milford and that’s exciting.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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