Lynchburg City Council Surveys Homeowners

BY PAUL BERGEN
The News Advance

City council was concerned that middle-income homebuyers were fleeing to Campbell and Bedford Counties.

So in 1996, the city paid the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia $9,000 to ask 25 real estate agents and 60 people who bought houses in the previous year to why they bought where they did.

The results were released Tuesday at a city council work session.

The property owners were selected through the real estate agents, city real estate records and through a directory of the Lynchburg area.

Though 40 of the 60 homebuyers said they would prefer to live either in suburbs, villages or the country, 34 of the 60 interviewed actually live in Lynchburg. Surveyers interviewed 18 who live nearby in Bedford County and six in Campbell.

The study notes that eight of the Lynchburg homebuyers spent more than $200,000, five spent less than $100,000, concluding that people didn't stay in Lynchburg just because of price.

"The key is in the diversity of housing," said William Lucy, an urban planner at the University of Virginia who participated in the study. He explained that often, when people are able to buy their second house, they move to the suburbs to find the kind of house they need.

"There are different niches, the older neighborhoods the traditional neighborhoods," said Bob White, a Lynchburg city planner. "In my nieghborhood (Plymouth Place), the houses are on the market for a day or less."

Thirty-eight percent of residential sales last year were in Lynchburg, according to J.P. Vaughn, a real estate agent and chairman of the city Planning Commission. Bedford had 28 percent. He said the county has an advantage for buying new houses, but the city has more variety.

Of the 34 Lynchburg households, 19 had children, which contradicts the belief that people with children avoid living in cities, according to authors of the study.

Author and CSR director Thomas M. Guterbock warned that the survey was not scientific but "exploratory."

This article taken from the Lynchburg News & Advance.