Archived Story

Student housing: Builder aims to meet needs

Published 11:00pm Monday, July 2, 2012

Jeff Hatcher strolled along the 500 block of Lee Avenue, clipboard in hand, Monday morning.

“I’m just looking for an address for these two houses,” Hatcher said, nodding to a pair of houses under construction. “I want to make sure I get it right.”

Hatcher, a sales representative with E.E. Bentley Insulation in Dothan, was waiting for builder Keith Laney to join him at the construction site.

“I’m here to measure for insulation,” he said, while electrical contractors worked inside one of the houses.

Hatcher says he’s been working with Laney – and a long list of Troy contractors – for several years. And these days, building houses for rent is keeping everyone busy.

“I know from working with these guys, they rent them out just about as fast they get them built,” Hatcher said. “Students need places to rent.”

Just blocks from Troy University, the new houses are nearby nearly a dozen other rental houses built within the last two years. The surrounding neighborhood near Pell Avenue is a mix of new construction and older houses, many of which are rented to students at Troy University.

“It’s a good area,” said Laney, owner of Trojan Construction. “The students seem to really like it.”

Close enough to walk or bike to class, quiet streets with little traffic and the appeal of new construction all attract students. The houses, which will feature two bedrooms and two baths, are about 1,000 square feet, just enough for a pair of college students. They rent for $1,000 month.

“The most important thing to the students is their own bedroom and own bathroom,” Laney said. “The price is on the upper end of the market, but it’s also brand new construction.”

Laney, a Troy graduate, has been in the construction business for more than seven years. His work is a mix of residential construction and construction of houses like those on Lee Avenue, which will be used as rental income. In an effort to meet the increasing demand for rental property, Laney is building three sets of properties right now: the Lee Avenue houses, a duplex on Park Street and a house on Willow Street.

The key is managing the turn-around from start to finish, which takes about six weeks. “We’re trying to get them ready so students can rent them in August,” Laney said. That’s when the market is at its peak. “It gets busy again in December and January, with students looking for housing for the spring, but it’s not as busy as the fall,” Laney said.

For Laney, and others in the construction and property management business, the push is a good thing. “People need to know the university is a good thing for us,” he said. “It’s keeping people busy right now … it’s a good thing for us and for Troy.”


  1. Bill_OReally

    Yes, just ignore the fact that the areas are zoned for single families. The zoning enforcement in Troy has always been a joke. And just like her predecessor, the new zoning administrator appears to be turning a blind eye also. Go figure.

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  2. zztrojan

    Amen to that, Bill. I live in a neighborhood close to the university and though we are R-1 zoned, the slumlords have been buying houses left and right and packing in the student tenants. If it’s possible for a house to have 3 bedrooms, you can bet there’s at least 3 students living there. Students generally don’t care if the grass gets cut or the trash is picked up, not to mention the parties and loud music late at night. They speed through our neighborhoods and run stop signs. Our property value was higher when the neighborhood was clean, quiet, and safe for children.

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  3. Harry

    It’s the almighty dollar that rules .

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  4. Kelly

    I wonder how well a small local builder will do when the IRS, HHS, etc. comes down to collect all the health insurance and work comp. taxes he can’t afford.

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  5. Henderson-Hillbilly

    I just checked and this area is for R-1 and by the zoning laws Two unrelated people can live in the same house, so I don’t see where the zoning officer could do anything about Mr. Laney building these houses. He stated that he was building for a pair of students only.

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  6. drabbit77

    I have no problem with local contractors employing local people filling a need. My problem is with the apartment developers from out of state taking money out of locals pockets, they use bussed labor and buy almost no material locally

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  7. WDM

    zztrojan,I don’t live in the city limits but why don’t you and a group of other home owners get together and go to a council meeting and talk to them about this problem.
    I have read on this forum for the past few years people complaining about students living where they are not supose to.If enough of you would stand together you may get something done.I am not saying you but to many people want to complain but don’t want to do anything to solve the problem.Just my thoughts on the matter.

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  8. Observer

    This is election season. We have candidates running for Mayor and Council positions but so far the only issue seems to be name recognition. Residents who are concerned about zoning enforcement should engage the candidates for their district regarding that issue and get them to take a position and let them know that their position and standing behind their own words are deal-makers/breakers when it comes to voting and supporting their candidacy.

    Ask your candidate questions such as:

    Will you use your vote on the mayors nominations to zoning and other boards are predicated on protecting property owners and enforcing zoning rather than making certain contractors get rich?

    Will you use your vote in the mayors nominations for other positions (such as school board) are not based on fraternity membership, business connections, family connections, etc., but are instead representative of the people of Troy.

    While in most respects Jimmy Lunsford did a great job as Mayor, his appointments to various boards are dominated by bankers, insurance agents, and Troy State University administrators. They all have a vested interest in encouraging neighborhoods to change dramatically – that forces the property to change hands which means financing and insurance opportunities.

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  9. Omelas

    But, but..that’s the way we have always done it in Troy.

    “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” –Thomas Paine

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