JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The housing demand in Johnson City has been called an ongoing dilemma by some, and one that is affecting soon-to-be college graduates across the area.

As students prepare to receive their diplomas and enter into the “real world,” those looking to stay local may encounter an additional obstacle: Where are they going to live?

Molly Dycus, 21, has made connections in Johnson City during her time as a student at Milligan University, but her post-grad plans have changed within the last year.

Photo: Molly Dycus, a student at Milligan, has seen a rise in rental costs in her time as a student. (WJHL)

When Dycus was a junior, rent for a two-bedroom apartment averaged around $900-$1,370 a month, according to Zumper, a privately owned rental platform. Now a senior, Zumper reports the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment ranges between $1,200-$1,800. That represents a 32% increase since last year.

For the average 21 to 22-year-old graduate, this cost may be too high to maintain.

“Johnson City is too expensive right now for someone fresh out of school,” Dycus said. “I would have to have financial support from my parents or a couple of roommates.”

For Dycus, the decision to leave was not an easy one, but a necessary one.

“I have a phenomenal community of people and moving away from them genuinely breaks my heart,” Dycus said. “But coming out of undergrad financially limited and seeing how the housing market presently looks…I’ve decided to live with my sister in Chattanooga so I can save more.”

Earlier in 2023, Johnson City’s metro was named number five in the Wall Street Journal/’s index of emerging housing markets for the quarter.

The positive economy, growing community and local businesses that are attracting new buyers can also have an effect on the overall affordability in the area. In a college town like Johnson City, the issue of affordability will directly affect students.

East Tennessee State University (ETSU) had around 2,100 seniors graduate in the spring of 2022 and is anticipating similar numbers in 2023. Like Milligan students, some have expressed interest in calling Johnson City home.

Audriana Goram, 20, is only a junior at ETSU but is already preparing to live in Johnson City post-graduation. Like Dycus, Goram has experienced some difficulty navigating the Johnson City housing market.

Photo: Audriana Goram is a junior at ETSU who would like to stay in the area after graduation. (WJHL)

“Rent is just so expensive now,” Goram said. “Not only that, but it is also just hard to find a decent place in a decent location for a good price.”

Goram works part-time as a waitress while at school and shared that most of her earnings will go toward her post-college housing.

“When the time comes, I plan on looking into working with someone that can help me find a good place to live,” Goram said.

Outside of graduate student housing, Milligan and ETSU did not have resources immediately available that could be provided to recent graduates to help in home searches upon inquiry.

Rick Chantry is the president of the Northeast Tennesee Association of Realtors (NETAR) with over 25 years of real estate experience. He said he wants to see local colleges provide more guidance for students transitioning out of school.

“I would love to see the colleges bring in some professionals,” Chantry said. “[They can] talk to you about why you would want to stay here in Johnson City or why you would want to leave.”

Chantry believes receiving professional advice will help students through the process of finding housing when the demand is high.

“Get people established in business,” Chantry said. “Whether it’s medical, real estate or insurance to talk to you about what it would take to get into their fields.”

Chantry thinks feedback from a variety of working professionals will help reach students across different majors and ultimately give them a glimpse into what it would take to both work and live in the Johnson City area.