'Gameday Homes' Raise Housing Costs in Small Southern Towns

Small college towns are seeing housing costs increase as out-of-town football fans buy up properties for short-term use.

2 minute read

August 18, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A bar is adorned in festive decorations for a college football game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Pre-gaming in Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama. | Dale Haverkampf / Shutterstock

"Gameday homes, investment properties where out-of-towners stay for football games and little else, are contributing to an increase in housing costs for permanent residents in Southern college towns like Starkville, according to a new study." As reported by Adina Solomon, the largely vacant units are driving up home prices in small towns without much surplus housing. 

While short-term and vacation rentals are a contentious issue in many parts of the country, says Taylor Shelton, assistant professor of geosciences at Georgia State University and the study author, "based on the size, relative isolation of certain college towns in the South, and then the particular importance culturally of college football, that it’s in those places that this phenomenon is really the biggest deal." In Starkville, Mississippi–Shelton's case study–he estimates that 5 to 10 percent of housing units are gameday homes. "In some neighborhoods, more than 75 percent of housing units are used for just the six weekends a year when college football teams play home games."

The impact of gameday homes tends to be "concentrated in smaller cities, either without a large housing supply or nearby towns to absorb the demand for housing." Yet local officials haven't done much to address the problem. "[C]ities like collecting property taxes on gameday homes because they’re assessed at a higher value. The local government also needs to provide minimal services since owners don’t use a lot of water and electricity and don’t enroll their kids in the school district." According to Shelton, "[w]hat cities need to be focused on is how they can address the housing market concerns or the quality of life issues that arise from prime housing in the city sitting vacant the vast majority of the time and contributing nothing to the quality of life and experience of people who choose to make these places their home."

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