- Kenton Tsoodle
Report on downtown housing shows positive trends
The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City commissioned a downtown housing study by Economic & Planning Systems Inc. to identify trends and conditions in downtown housing and how Oklahoma City can continue to develop the types of downtown housing that will best support our residents’ needs and encourage further economic development.
Housing demand in Oklahoma City has been driven by a resilient economy, anchored by strong population, employment, and income growth. Between 2010 and 2020, Oklahoma City added 100,000 residents and 92,000 jobs, while median household income increased. These factors contributed to a strong housing market across all areas of the city.
The study shows that downtown Oklahoma City has experienced a significant amount of housing development activity over the past decade, most of which have been apartments. There is a total of approximately 5,020 housing units downtown, with 2,820 new housing units added between 2010 and 2021. Midtown leads with 28% of the total, followed by Deep Deuce, the Arts District, Automobile Alley, the Innovation District and Bricktown.
Many of these housing projects have needed public support to be feasible, and tax increment financing has shown to be the most effective tool for incentivizing multifamily housing at desired density levels. West Village, The Steel Yard and Metropolitan Apartments have built four- and five-story apartments with structured parking that have achieved urban level densities of 60 to 80 units per acre. However, with rents still averaging below $2 per square foot, these projects were feasible only with the use of incentives to address a financing gap. This is also true of the peer cities that were reviewed in the study. Nashville, Kansas City, Fort Worth and Omaha, all with growing downtown housing fueled by younger knowledge-based workers and a strong economy, also have used TIF to incentivize urban density housing projects.
The tipping point is coming for Oklahoma City. While incentives are still necessary to facilitate the development of high-quality housing, demand will continue to grow over the next decade, our economy will continue to thrive and the market will adjust where these subsidies are not required. Our investment in MAPS has transformed downtown’s vitality: downtown streetscape and arts, Core to Shore, Oklahoma City Boulevard, Scissortail Park and the Oklahoma City Streetcar all have made downtown living a viable and highly desired lifestyle.