Fort Bend ISD may put off construction on schools in growth areas as long-term economic effects of coronavirus remain unknown

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic this spring, several new developments in Sugar Land, Missouri City and other areas of Fort Bend ISD were expected to add nearly 15,000 new housing occupancies in the next 10 years, according to a study from demographic firm Population and Survey Analysts.

While the coronavirus pandemic initially caused some slowdowns in new home construction and sales, local real estate professionals said these areas picked up again in May.

Still, FBISD is anticipating slower enrollment growth following the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. This, coupled with economic uncertainty, has led district officials to recommend delaying the construction and opening of several new schools.

Projected growth

In the next five years, subdivisions including Sienna, Imperial, Riverstone and Harvest Green in the Sugar Land and Missouri City area are each expected to add more than 500 new housing occupancies, according to PASA data presented to the FBISD board of trustees earlier this year.


Kunal Seth of The Seth Brothers Team with eXp Realty said these four Fort Bend County communities have always been in high demand.

“If a builder has a good product line and if they’re building in a good master-planned community like Harvest Green, Imperial, Sienna, or Riverstone, the demand has picked up significantly,” Seth said.

PASA projected one master-planned community—Sienna—to have 2,765 new housing occupancies from 2019-24 and another 2,610 from 2024-29.

Sienna, along with developments under construction along the FM 521 corridor, will add more than 9,000 new single-family home occupancies in the next 10 years, according to PASA data.

Justin Silhavy, the director of demographic projections at PASA, said while he is unsure of the coronavirus’s full effect on growth, he anticipates it will slow but continue to happen in the same areas as previously projected.

“We’ve seen that time and time again, with every disaster, every recession. So, the plans we help provide school districts, they don’t usually change, the timing might be adjusted,” Silhavy said.

In February, PASA projected in the next 10 years FBISD will need four to five new elementary schools in the southeast portion of the district to accommodate enrollment growth in these areas.

So far, FBISD has planned two elementary schools for the area, but at the June 8 board of trustees meeting, the district proposed delaying the construction and opening of these schools.

Superintendent Charles Dupre said at the meeting any time there is a significant economic downturn, such as the one caused by business restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, enrollment growth slows.

“We’re busy preparing, again in a conservative way, to see how this will affect use and construction and opening of new facilities,” Dupre said.

Christen Johnson, the senior vice president of marketing at Johnson Development Co., said there was a slowdown of home starts in Fort Bend County’s master-planned communities in May. However, fewer available inventory homes and the uptick of interest in move-in-ready houses caused home starts to pick up in June.

During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Seth said some builders delayed putting new inventory homes on the market because of widespread uncertainty. However, he said even three months out, many builders believe the economic effects of the coronavirus are behind them.

“[Builders] are putting a lot of homes on the market for inventory because they feel that the COVID-19 issue is in the rearview mirror,” Seth said.

Effects of the coronavirus

Silhavy said he thinks the coronavirus affects the real estate market in two ways: low mortgages and job loss. These trends will determine how much population growth the area sees, he said.

“Right now, we’re in a situation where mortgages are at a historic low,” Silhavy said. “So people are buying houses, even during the pandemic.”

Seth said the 2.75%-3.25% interest rates, the lowest rates for conventional loans in the last 10-20 years, are increasing purchasing power for buyers.

“If I can get a loan at 3% versus 4%, well that’s a huge savings, so I can buy a more expensive home,” Seth said.

Seth said in the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, many of his clients did pause their search for a new home because of economic and job uncertainty. But he said many of them now feel the market is more stable.

“After 30-45 days ... [buyers] came out and bought a lot of homes,” Seth said. “So buyers who had taken a backseat, suddenly they’ve come up, and there’s been an influx of demand.”

Johnson said Johnson Development Co.’s master-planned communities are favorable among buyers.

“Low-mortgage interest rates, low resale and new home supply, virtual sales opportunities and notable buyer urgency are all contributing to strong demand,” Johnson said in an email.

In the Greater Houston area, pending sales for new homes were down 15%-20% in March and April, which in turn caused closings to be down 20% in May, according to data provided by Seth. However, there were 10,599 pending sales on single-family homes in May, up 23% compared to May 2019.

Seth said as long as there are no more stay-at-home orders issued because of the coronavirus, he expects the upward trend in home sales to continue.

“We are projecting much higher sales in all the months going forward, unless we are in lockdown and the market is shut down because of COVID-19,” Seth said. “The trends are showing June 2020 is going to be better than June 2019, and July and August the same way.”

Silhavy said the long-term effect of the coronavirus on the local real estate market is tied to whether there is sustained job loss from the coronavirus, especially in markets like the oil and gas sector.

“If we do see sustained job losses—and again if, because I don’t know if we will—we’ll definitely see less gains in population, which would, in turn, mean, you’d see a slowdown in building for sure,” Silhavy said.

However, Silhavy said the widespread job loss due to restrictions on restaurants and other retail businesses during the coronavirus pandemic will have less of an effect on the local real estate market because those job losses are occurring everywhere.

From May 13 to June 13, 12,811 people in Fort Bend County filed unemployment claims, according to the most recent data from the Texas Workforce Commission. This number is down from 21,939 claims filed from April 15 through May 16. The top three sectors experiencing the most job loss locally were restaurants, oil and gas support services, and grade schools.

Unemployment and job loss stemming from the coronavirus pandemic may also affect whether FBISD can call a bond election as planned in November 2021, Dupre said. Funds approved in the bond election would be used for the construction of some of the new schools that would be necessary to accommodate growth from new homes in the district.

“I just cannot re-emphasize enough how this pandemic and the uncertainty at all levels will have an impact on us in many ways for years to come,” Dupre said.
By Claire Shoop
Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.


MOST RECENT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Costco Business Centers, of which there are only about 15 in the country, carry different products and provide a different shopping experience to members than do traditional Costco Wholesale stores. (Courtesy Costco Wholesale)
First Houston-area Costco Business Center under construction at The Grid in Stafford

Costco Business Centers, of which there are only about 15 in the country, carry different products and provide a different shopping experience to members than do traditional Costco Wholesale stores.

Armored Sports camps feature basketball, flag football and more. (Courtesy Pexels)
Armored Sports camps to launch in venues across Greater Houston

A new Christian sports camp for youth is launching this summer in churches across the Greater Houston area.

"Breaking Strongholds" is a faith-based, eight-episode series that explores topics such as suicide and depression. (Courtesy Terry Weaver)
Series shot in Montgomery County aiming for Hulu, Netflix deal and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Missouri City voters will be asked during the May 1 election whether they support nine amendments to the city’s charter, the document that outlines how the city’s government is structured as well as its rules and procedures. (Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
City Council term length, limits on Missouri City May ballot along with other charter amendments

Missouri City voters will be asked during the May 1 election whether they support nine amendments to the city’s charter, which outlines how the city’s government is structured as well as its rules and procedures.

Sugar Land- and Missouri City-area higher education officials said they agree: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to educating students amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
Despite COVID-19 challenges, Fort Bend County higher education institutions continue to recruit, graduate students

Sugar Land- and Missouri City-area higher education officials said they agree: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to educating students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is the latest case, hospitalization and vaccine data from Fort Bend County. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Nearly 30% of eligible Fort Bend County population fully vaccinated against COVID-19

From March 26-April 8, the county reported an average of 91.6 new coronavirus cases a day.

The temporary waiver covering initial vehicle registration, vehicle registration renewal, vehicle titling, renewal of permanent disabled parking placards and 30-day temporary permits will end April 14. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
DMV officials say no grace period following waiver of car title, registration; new housing set for Magnolia, Cypress

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

La Tapatia serves fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, tacos and quesadillas as well as soups, chicken and seafood plates. (Courtesy Pexels)
Sugar Land Mexican restaurant La Tapatia to open outdoor patio in April

La Tapatia is undergoing renovations to add outdoor seating to its Sugar Land restaurant.

Hope for Three is celebrating its 10th anniversary during autism awareness month. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sugar Land autism nonprofit Hope for Three celebrates 10th anniversary in April

April is the month dedicated globally to autism awareness.

Students returned to Fort Bend ISD's Meadows Elementary School on April 5. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Meadows Elementary School opens doors to Fort Bend ISD students April 5 after rebuild

The school was completely rebuilt as part of the 2018 Fort Bend ISD bond.

Service King specializes in dent removal, bumper and fender fixes, and car body painting. (Courtesy Service King)
Service King to open Sugar Land collision repair center in mid-April

This will be Service King's 28th Houston-area location.