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June 23, 2010

BRAC jobs and the housing market

We've been hearing about BRAC -- and all its splendiferous jobs -- for five years now. But the big growth related to the base realignment and closure effort is finally on the way.

More details here, including the nearly 1,500 jobs moving to Aberdeen Proving Ground in August and September.

So what does this mean for the housing market?

Officials at the Residences at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace say at least a third of their home sales this year have been to BRAC buyers. There was a lot of looking last year, but now people are signing on the dotted line.

"We anticipate the benefits to be for four, five, six years," said Brenda Desjardins, a spokeswoman for the golf-course community. "The trend we're seeing from people moving from Fort Monmouth is they do want to stay in that 95 corridor. They're tending to buy in Aberdeen and points north because they do want to keep that ... affiliation with New Jersey."

Deborah T. Devlin, director of human resources for the Army's Communications-Electronics Command, part of the C4ISR team that's moving from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen, is seeing a split in BRAC staffers' location preferences. 

"Obviously, a lot of people will not want a long commute, so they'll go into the Harford County, Cecil County areas," she said. "But we do have pockets of our work force, particularly the young professional crowd, that sees the city of Baltimore as a good place to be."

The number of government workers relocating with their BRAC jobs has been a moving target. Right now the Army is estimating that half of the Aberdeen-bound positions will come with bodies, with the other half to be filled (or already being filled) with new hires.

Fort Meade, which is also due for thousands of BRAC jobs, is likely to get a much higher percentage of relocating workers. The Defense Information Systems Agency, the largest organization moving to the Anne Arundel County base, estimates that about 70 percent of its staff will come along. (Commuting from Northern Virginia, where they're now based, is possible in a way that New Jersey to Aberdeen is not.)

Because most workers being BRAC'ed to Fort Meade are coming from a (theoretically) commutable distance, officials expect less homebuying ripple effects around that base. The question mark is how long folks will put up with the drive before moving, quitting or retiring.

What's your BRAC story? 

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:12 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: BRAC


I can say that being in Harford County almost every day, I see a lot of New Jersey and South Carolina registered vehicles driving around both Bel Air and the US 40 corridor. Friends of mine who live in Harford have said a lot of the homes that were once for sale on their blocks have turned into 'for rent' signs and are quickly being occupied with the out of State visitors. It would be interesting to see some information on how many transplants are looking to buy vs rent when they first arrive.

Harford County needs to do a better job in putting laws on the books to insure property owners don't accumlate junk in their yards. Some neighborhoods are a disgrace and need to be cleaned up.

There's some confusion stemming from Jamie's writing. She says, "Ft. Meade is likely to have a higher percentage of relocating workers" and then goes on to imply that these "relocating" workers will be commuters. I think what she means is that the DISA jobs are the relocates and the people who currently fill them will be changing their commuting patterns, not their places of residences. As to how long this will prevail, I say for as long as it takes. We're in the middle of a fierce recession, the likes of which I haven't seen since the early 1980s and I daresay Jamie has never seen. DISA employees whose jobs have been transferred to Ft. Meade are not going to resign -- not in this economic climate. If the commute starts to kill them they'll find like-minded co-workers and rent pied-a-terres. There are lots of townhouses and new apartments in the area.

Sorry for the confusion, RoseMary -- that sentence in the story was changed about a dozen times to make it clearer, and I think it just ended up worse. Workers whose jobs are moving for BRAC can either go along or quit. Fort Meade is poised to get more workers coming along with the jobs -- as opposed to new hires -- than Aberdeen Proving Ground, because they don't have to change homes in order to do so.

That's why I note in this blog post that people are expecting less home-buying impact around Fort Meade than APG. Probably a lot less, for the reasons you note.

I am an APG employee and work on a committee to encourage commuters to participate in carpools and vanpools. In the last several weeks, we have seen five vanpools (approx. 20-25 ppl) begin service from the North East/Elkton area. We have also seen one or two vanpools begin service from Newark DE, Baltimore City, and Bel Air. It seems that the early BRAC movers are favoring Harford and Cecil County and points north, but that could change as this process heats up. On a side note, we are facing some serious traffic jams if we don't get people out of their cars.

BRAC-keeping Hazard County sellers hopefully, inflexible for years now.

Yes, Anon, I can see how it would have that effect!

Bud, thanks for bringing transportation into the discussion -- what happens there will matter for BRAC and non-BRAC workers alike.

What a circus. The transportation is going to be a mess.

If I was a local business man on 22 or 40, I'd be setting up shop to feed these people because the options are slim around the proving ground.

It never ceases to amaze me the decisions the New Jerseyians make for their housing during this BRAC.

The B/W Parkway (I-295) is already a mess at only 4 lanes, I highly doubt it will be expanded anytime soon... So traffic in the Fort Meade area and the Beltway is going to get worse, if that's possible, especially if people are commuting in from NoVa... It would be nice to see if the MARC could be of assistance... In the meantime, I guess this means more stress on the state infrastructure... Are any revenues coming in with these jobs to address these resource issues? Or will the state politicians reallocate them to special projects and ignore the real issues?

It is amazing for all of the talk of Harford County & State officials about how they're prepared for BRAC & how they aren't. Scant highway improvements have occurred. It can be a 45-60 minute ride just from Aberdeen to Bel Air on some planning, no effort, no acknowledgment that Harford County roads were already failing before 25,000 new families show up. Poor planning bordering on ineptitude.

I am unable to imagine too many people purchasing housing in Baltimore to work in Aberdeen. Fancy some more realtorian wishful thinking?

Harford/Belair region will be a commuting disaster. Cecil county and points North including Newark, Del. will provide much better access to APG.

Since points north may be very congested fro commuters, just curious how many new hires or transfers would consider the commute from lets say Owings Mills or is this just too far to even consider?

There are issues. But the beautiful, historic city of Havre de Grace is worth checking out. Visit my website for a resources, activities and community updates. We look forward to our new residents, new neighbors, and lots of visitors. Growth is always a bit chaotic before it's all completed. But we welcome you!

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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