More on non-local property ownership in Lexington

Just a couple of weeks ago, we dove into the geography of non-local property ownership in Lexington. While we found that nearly 10% of the city’s properties, and 18% of its total land area, are owned outside of the city itself, we also found that some elements of this dynamic were uniquely concentrated within Lexington. In particular, looking only at residential properties, we found that concentrated non-local ownership — defined as owners with more than 10 properties — was substantially more likely to occur in the areas surrounding the University of Kentucky campus; a textbook example of absentee owners taking advantage of the captive market of students seeking off-campus housing.

But in our earlier post, we neglected to explore a few key elements of non-local property ownership. For instance, while we looked at aforementioned clusters of concentrated non-local ownership of residential properties at the census tract scale throughout the city, we didn’t perform a similar analysis for non-locally owned residential properties more generally. The map below visualizes those census tracts in the city that have relatively high concentrations of non-local residential properties in green, and vice versa for those tracts in purple, according to an odds ratio calculation like the one from our previous post. Allowing for a bit of a buffer around the expected value of 1, we see the emergence of three distinct clusters for each group. While we can clearly see the student-dominated areas along both Elizabeth Street and Maxwell surrounding the UK campus, this area also expands to include much of downtown Lexington, as well as Irishtown, the neighborhoods around Red Mile Road, and even south to Picadome. The other two clusters of non-local ownership are more suburban, with both lying between between New Circle and Man O’ War, with one cluster of three census tracts near the Woodhill neighborhood to the east, and another three tracts along Tates Creek Road to the south that includes the Kirklevington neighborhood, among others.

Clusters of non-locally owned properties at the census tract level

One of the other key dimensions of non-local ownership that we didn’t explore previously was where these owners are clustered outside of Lexington. The two maps below move us towards a better understanding of who is investing in Lexington’s residential properties, by aggregating each property’s owner address to the county (within Kentucky) or MSA (for the whole country) level. In general, it’s unsurprising that so many of Lexington’s residential properties are owned in the surrounding counties.

Non-local ownership by county in Kentucky

But what is startling is that even among these counties, Jessamine County has more than double the number of properties owned within its borders than the next highest concentration, which is actually an hour away in Louisville. Given that the county-wide median household income is a good bit higher in both Woodford and Scott Counties (and with Clark not that far behind), and the population being smaller than both Madison and Scott Counties — i.e., this isn’t simply a function of wealth or population size — there’s no simple explanation for such why so many Jessamine County residents are buying up Lexington’s residential property relative to other adjacent counties. Beyond the contiguous counties and Louisville, it’s also worth noting that property ownership clusters in parts of eastern Kentucky, and specifically around Pikeville and London.

Non-local ownership by MSA in the continental United States

Beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth, Lexington’s residential properties are held in a number of places both near and far. Apart from those MSAs that are entirely within or include parts of Kentucky (e.g., the Cincinnati MSA), the next highest concentration of residential property ownership is in Atlanta, where 134 separate properties are owned. Following Atlanta is Los Angeles with 131, Washington, DC with 112, Miami with 86 and Honolulu with 78. While Atlanta’s prominence points towards something of a intra-regional pattern, the fact that other nearby cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus or Nashville aren’t nearly as active in Lexington’s residential property market would seem to negate such a pattern. Indeed, if anything, the fact that three of the top 5 cities for non-local ownership concentrations are incredibly far from Lexington points to a pattern where there is significant investment from the immediate surrounding areas and significant investment from a handful of large metro areas quite far away, but relatively little from other regional centers nearby.