City Council considers housing development

The community’s housing needs now and in the future were at the top of the agenda Monday night for the City Council of Webster City.

Council members discussed a housing summit held in April which included various business and community members directly and indirectly involved in housing-related industries. City Manager Ed Sadler said the consensus from the summit was there is a need for housing in the $175,00 to $200,000 range in the Webster City area. The new and expanding industries in Fort Dodge, Clarion and other nearby areas is creating that demand, he said.

“We’ve heard that there is a sort of immediate need for a certain type of housing. Some of the managers of the new business developments are looking for housing or have bought homes, and there’s nothing really left on the market here in Webster City in this range,” he said.

The result is that potential home buyers are looking elsewhere in other nearby communities.

The city still owns seven lots in the Brewer Creek Subdivision, Sadler said. If the housing demand continues, he said the city will likely have to look at developing another new housing area similar to Brewer Creek. In the short term, Sadler said he had put together a proposal for the council to review for developing the existing seven lots.

“It is basically that we go find a developer to build three homes on three of the lots,” he said. “They don’t pay for lots until the home sells. If the homes do not sell within 90 days of completion, the city would purchase the homes, provided the builder has actively tried to sell the home.”

“Once the first home has sold, a fourth home will be started by the contractor with the same guarantee of purchase by the city,” he said. “This would continue with the selling of the second home and so forth until all seven lots have homes on them, but at no time would there be more than three unsold homes unless the contractor agrees to take the risk.”

Sadler said if the homes sell well, the city might not ever have to purchase any or put up any funds to encourage the development.

The city manager said he had discussed the proposal with several in the private sector, who said perhaps the homes built should be more in the $190,000 to $235,000 range. It was also suggested by another party that perhaps other areas of the community should be considered for development with an eye to a slightly lower priced homes. He added that those parties also suggested perhaps homes should be listed for a longer period before the city’s guarantee would kick in.

“I’m not sure that we can act tonight on this,” said Mayor Janet Adams, “but I think we need to send the message that we are going to act. I think we need to wait for some more input.”

“We have a lot of positives going on around this whole concept,” said Councilman Geary Meyer. “We haven’t had that in the past. To have it now is outstanding.”

Sadler the reason he shared the proposal was he didn’t want to see the city “stepping on the toes” of parties that may be interested in developing the properties themselves.

Councilman Doug Getter said he felt the proposal was “on point.”

“First of the its property the city already owns, the infrastructure is in, it makes a lot of sense for us from an asset utilization standpoint. This says we’re willing to step forward,” he said.

“On the other side, I’d like to see a private sector initiative as well,” Getter said. “I’d like to see a two-pronged attack.”

Sadler and Adams said there were several private sector groups that had expressed an interest in housing development. Adams asked those parties to call city hall, 832-9151, with ideas and proposals.

The council took no action Monday night, but asked that the matter be placed back on the agenda in two weeks.

In a related matter, the City Council approved a Community Housing Assessment Team study to be conducted in the community. Sadler said RDG Planning had done a housing assessment in 2004. The cost for the study was $8,000, but with a contribution from Black Hills Energy of $3,000 and from Corn Belt Power Cooperative of $2,500, the city’s share would only be $2,500.

Several council members questioned whether the study was necessary, given the outcome of the housing summit. But Getter suggested that the independent study could help provide background, details and explanations to the public.