By Matt Headley
I moved down here in the fall of 2011. I've watched the population here double? triple? ... Yes, I'm part of the rest of the influx, but I argue with rural roots, and with some age... Yet at that time, people here were still recovering big time from the Great Recession after the crash of 2008. Things didn't START building again until probably the last half of 2012.
Someone posted on the nextdoor app saying he was a local moving out... Granted... I'm staying... (stuck?) here with my career, but it's hard not to share the same sentiment... I'm NOT a cheerleader for the area anymore...
Since moving here, I have become single and living on my own. Despite having a decent paying job for this state, I can't afford a mortgage in this area. The price of double wide trailers in Hampstead alone have more than doubled in price. I recently saw a new double wide for sale for $200,000! And it seems to be getting worse...
The island used to be a "fishing village". maybe a vacation real estate business, a dive grill where one could have an affordable bite to eat. Not any more. Now the cheapest meal is probably a burger or hot dog at the pier. Now it's boutiques and higher end shops. Now it's vacationers on Topsail TLC reporting again and again that vacation rentals have gone up FAR above inflation. Home prices have probably more than doubled. I don't know if "gentrification" is what you call it, but how else do you describe an affordable place to live that is no longer affordable to most people.
I've personally known quite a few people that moved away. How about you? Have you yourself moved away or inland further?
The Topsail Magazine, which comes out quarterly, is no better. Latest issue is all about real estate. Forget about averages, here is the highest priced houses sold here, there, here, there. Oh, and here's an article about Surf City mayor Teresa Batts, who is a realtor. Who considers long time mayor Zander Guy a mentor, who was a realtor. It seemed everyone around me became a realtor around 2012 and it seemed like realtors multiplied like rabbits during that time. Capitalization? Part of the reason for this New Topsail Island? Cause/Effect? I don't know.
I don't blame people moving here preCovid. No matter where they were from, they were looking for a better life, same as I. I would probably caution them now at this point, however.
This area is far different than late 2011. And it's not just the growth itself in my argument, it's the growing lack of FINANCIAL diversity. In my life I've ALWAYS been the blue collar low to middle working class. I will always argue that most of them may struggle, but they may be more full of LIFE. And I'll leave it at that for interpretation and keep the pissing off at a minimum. Maybe this is partially to give the influx a broader picture of this area than Topsail Magazine. It's also not gonna get any cheaper. It's been reported that Pender County asked for another huge bond to build more schools soon which will raise taxes again.
I personally believe in capitalization without stomping on the poor, and would never say anything against working hard and earning a living, but the new influx seems to only be pushing the rest of us out. Look at everything that is being built now. It is all very expensive houses... or very expensive apartments. There won't be any single wide trailers being placed on anyone's $100,000 1/27th of an acre property any longer.
Dare I say this area has become "yuppified"? I'm not sure at what point it is, but the longer I live here the more I believe it.
Historical photos are courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.