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Housing issue among challenges as Bonham, Fannin County manage growth

Housing around the still-developing Bois d'Arc Lake is selling for the same robust prices found in other fast-growing rural areas.
Texas Watershed Steward
Texas A&M Agrilife Today
Housing around the still-developing Bois d'Arc Lake is selling for the same robust prices found in other fast-growing rural areas.

Properties around the developing Bois d'Arc Lake are selling for high prices, but renters in Bonham have limited options

Bonham, like quite a few towns near the periphery of the Dallas metro region, has a shortage of available housing.

The city launched a study in 2015 and discovered then it was about 400 units short of what the city needs, said Mark Kinnaird, community development director for the city. What has brought about the shortage in housing? Kinnaird attributed the shortage to a lot of factors. One of them is the development of Bois d’Arc Lake in rural Fannin County.

The lake is continuing to fill. The development that the lake is expected to generate has yet to occur. Kinnaird, though, is seeking to prepare for what is going to be an extension and an acceleration of the growth that is occurring as residents migrate to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – and then look beyond that sprawling urban area for a quieter life in the country.

“We can’t build the houses fast enough,” Kinnaird said. “We have been talking for many years about the growth that ‘is coming.’ Well, it’s here. The inflow of residents from the south is beginning. Growth is here now.”

Kinnaird said the city has about 1,000 acres available for single- and multi-family housing units.

“I cannot say that Bois d’Arc Lake is totally responsible for that growth,” Kinnaird said, but he agrees that the prospect of residential development around the lake “has accelerated” the demand for housing in Bonham.

He said that “growth from Dallas and Fort Worth seems to come north.” He explained that the Texas Department of Transportation has developed plans to make Texas Highway 121 a “four-lane all the way to Fannin County” in the still-to-be-determined future.

He noted that Bois d’Arc Lake has installed a 5,000-foot perimeter around the edge of the lake. “But the lake is outside the city limits. Our world ends there,” Kinnaird said.

He noted that “most lake-goers are going to come through Bonham. They will need food. They might even need a place to stay and that will have an impact on our hotels. There will be those who can’t afford a ‘second house’ on the lake.”

Kinnaird added that “water tends to attract people” and he is hopeful that the city will be ready to handle the expected growth when development starts occurring around Bois d’Arc Lake.

There has been an immediate signal of potentially explosive growth, Kinnaird said, explaining that “permits here have tripled. So, yes, the lake is going to have an impact.”

Bois d’Arc Lake covers a little more than 16,000 acres in Fannin County and is one of two lakes under development; the other is Lake Ralph Hall, which isn’t receiving water yet. Bois d’Arc Lake is the first reservoir to be developed in Texas in the past 30 years. The North Texas Municipal Water District, which oversees management of the lake, sees the water as essential to contributing to the growth that is expected in the region over the coming decades.

Fannin County officials told KETR that a housing shortage could inhibit growth in the region as the lake comes online.

Chance Peeler, who serves as president of the Bonham Chamber of Commerce board of directors, has taken a big-picture look at the situation and foresees potential difficulty as Bois d’Arc Lake and Lake Ralph Hall come online. “Property around (Bois d’Arc Lake) is selling for an unbelievable amount of money,” Peeler said, acknowledging that Bonham “has a lack of affordable housing.”

Many of the prospective buyers, Peeler said in echoing Kinnaird’s view of the source of the growth in the county, live “out of town. They are looking for second homes. But a lot of sellers are sitting on their property, not wanting to sell it just yet.” Peeler, who serves as vice president of Fannin Bank in Bonham, said property owners are waiting for the expected huge demand on their land before selling it.

Peeler said the Bonham city officials and officials in Fannin County government “are aware of the problem. They know it’s there.”

Interest rates are going to increase, Peeler suggested, “and that is going to affect the cost of everything. Building materials are going to go up, along with rates on rental property.”

Peeler noted, as did Kinnaird, that Texas 121 from McKinney into Fannin County is facing potential stress from increased traffic.

As for paying for the growth, Peeler said that “it’s going to take several funding sources. It’s going to take grants” that the city and county will seek to help pay for the infrastructure improvements required in Bonham and Fannin County.