CHARLESTON, W.Va. —A new report from the West Virginia State Tax Department said the average cost of housing in the Eastern Panhandle’s Jefferson County is more than 11 times higher than in the southern coalfields county of McDowell.
The report also shows that Jefferson’s 2011 average of $229,261 — down about $19,000 from the previous year— was more than double the state average of $111,977 last year.
In impoverished McDowell, meanwhile, the cost of housing averaged $20,245 last year, up from $18,880 the previous year.
The state issued the 2011 housing index last week.
State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, sponsored a bill requiring it in 2009, and the first report was released a year later.
The report is based on data from each county’s assessor’s office and the appraised market value of houses in those counties.
Snyder has said the continuing gap illustrates the need to raise the salaries of some state employees, such as teachers, depending on where they live. Eastern Panhandle counties often lose teachers to better-paying jobs in neighboring Virginia, Maryland or Pennsylvania.
Eastern Panhandle homes have long been among the state’s most expensive, largely because of their proximity to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Many people have moved into the countryside, sending land prices and development soaring as they commute to higher-paying jobs in the cities.
Last year, Hampshire County came in with the second-highest average housing cost at $197,405, followed by Morgan County at $196,724 and Berkeley County at $187,590.
McDowell, meanwhile, has long battled population and job loss.
U.S. Census figures show that not a single building permit was issued in 2010, and median household income from 2006-10 was just $24,133 — far below the state average of $38,241 and less than half the U.S. average.
Census figures also show the number of people living in poverty in McDowell was more than double the national average at 33.6 percent in 2010, and far higher than the state’s average of 18 percent.