2017 Regional Housing Study: Housing Demand in Miller County

As Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development Council assembled economic development plans and initiatives for the region, housing has come up frequently as a major economic development factor. To be successful, the area must provide a variety of housing types to drawn in residents who want to relocate a business to the Lake of the Ozarks. The diverse economy of the region, which includes both tourism-oriented businesses close to the Lake and industrial jobs away from the Lake, has successfully attracted a growing population of people who seek to enjoy the environment offered in the region. This week, the Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development Council wants to share how the housing demand in Miller County will affect the growth of the Lake of the Ozarks region moving forward. Take a look:

Miller County is defined by its diversity of landscape and economies. From rural to agricultural in all but the southwest corner of the county, this diversity enables Miller County to maintain an appeal and viability. Its largest communities, Lake Ozark and Eldon, demonstrate this dichotomy of lake-orientated community compared to a more traditional town center. The housing challenges and opportunities in Miller County are diverse and the following chapter provides an overview of issues for the county and its largest communities.

Miller County grew at a steady pace over the past century. The population has nearly doubled since 1960, from 13,600 to 24,905 in 2014. This stable population growth suggests the economic and housing characteristics are fairly resilient to market changes such as the recession. Since 2000, Lake Ozark maintained the most stable pattern of growth, as Eldon and the county's smallest towns lost some population.

Miller County has a mix of lake-oriented service and retail, and more agriculture than some Lake counties. The stagnation of the manufacturing economy in the region affected Miller County's economy but had less of an impact due to its diverse employment base. A basic assessment of Miller County's economic trends indicates in its role as a service center for the Lake Region, a large segment of the labor force is engaged in retail trade, 17.2%. Since 2005, the percent of employees commuting into the county has increased significantly.

The area's lower incomes likely mean a greater demand for affordable rental housing. Households earning less than 80% of the area median income are considered to be low income. For households in Miller County, this income is $29,274 (dependent on household size) or, for a single income household an hourly wage of $13.11. In the region's service and retail trades and in some manufacturing operations, hourly wages below this threshold are common.

While the county seat lies 12 miles to the southeast in Tuscumbia, Eldon is very much the center of commerce, employment, and community activity in Miller County. As a traditional community, Eldon has an innate character to its downtown and historic charm that is enjoyed and appreciated by residents and visitors to the Lake region. As one of the gateways to the Lake, Eldon is well positioned to become an even more important community in the region.

Since 1960, the growth rate has fluctuated from decade to decade, ranging between 0% and 2.1% annually. The strongest growth occurred in the 1980s. Based on population demographics such as age composition, Eldon was projected to grow between 2000 and 2010. However, the community experienced out-migration for its only decade of population loss in the past 60 years. To support a population of 5,135 by 2025, the city will need to produce 81 additional housing units. This equates to a rate of approximately eight new units per year. However, access to affordable lots is an issue for Eldon. Lot development and redevelopment will need to occur to facilitate new construction in the city.

The second largest city in Miller County, Lake Ozark is closely connected to the Lake economy as a retail, entertainment, and service center. The reliance on the Lake causes Lake Ozark to follow the fluctuations and patterns of the Lake economy as a whole including the recession. However, the overall trend within the Lake region is upward with population gains, increasing disposable incomes, and increasing business interest, and Lake Ozark is positioned to capitalize on this trend.

Lake Ozark experienced its greatest rate of growth between 1990 and 2000 with an annual growth rate of 8.1%. Following this period, the rate decreased in the following decade due in part to the recession, but it appears that growth has resumed based on the 2014 population estimate. To support a population of 1,851 by 2025, the city will need to produce a minimum of 98 additional housing units. This is fairly conservative compared to recent years. In the coming years Lake Ozark and Eldon, with their ability to manage and maintain infrastructure, should capture more of the growth that is happening in the rural areas, especially those areas away from the Lake.

Iberia is a traditional community that is separated both economically and physically from the influences of the Lake. The character of Iberia is rural with an older housing stock that is generally in fair to good condition.


The city's population grew during the 2000s, likely driven by affordable housing and a higher birthrate. While the census estimates that the population has declined, quality affordable housing could continue to be appealing to regional workers. Iberia is a relatively affordable place in the region. The greatest challenges will be creating/ retaining jobs, maintaining and increasing the number of quality housing units, and property maintenance.

Like Morgan County, Miller County's fertile landscape to the north and east provides a more balanced agriculture and tourism based economy. The county is diverse with character ranging from rural and remote on the east, to Eldon's traditional town center, to Lake Ozark and its entertainment district. 

Both Eldon and Lake Ozark have strong character and offer a unique experience to visitors and residents of the region. The eastern portion of the county is more rural and remote. These areas are less connected to the Lake economy and only connected to other population centers and the interstate by narrower, slower speed highways. 

Miller County, especially with its major population centers, is positioned to continue to evolve to a more significant role as a regional housing and commercial center. As community and county leaders look for ways to continue to expand the local economy, housing will play a crucial role. The region is well positioned to continue to grow and be an attractive location for residents looking to relocate a business to Missouri and expand the economy!


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