City Council hears housing study report

The City Council of Webster City Tuesday night heard a report on a housing study conducted in the community by Martin Shukert of RDG Planning and Design, Omaha.

Shukert was hired in 1999 to conduct a housing assessment for Webster City and he returned in 2004 to do the city’s housing assessment and strategic plan. This assessment marks the third time that he as worked on housing issues for the city, according to a council memo from City Manager Ed Sadler.

It was recommended at the city’s housing summit held last April that an assessment be done to consider the housing needs in Webster City. The city recently moved ahead with a housing project in the Brewer Creek addition. In May, the council members voted to move forward with a possible housing development in Webster City by soliciting Request for Proposals from interested developers.

Housing summit

A housing summit held in April included various business and community members directly and indirectly involved in housing-related industries. City Manager Ed Sadler said at the time that 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.

The proposal to the council called for the city to issue an RFP seeking a developer or homebuilder to build a minimum of three and as many as seven homes in the $195,000 to $235,00 range, an increase from the original discussion. The plan would start with three and as the first one sold, the fourth home would be started; as the second sold, the fifth one would be started and so on.

The successful contractor would not have to pay the city for the lots until the homes sold and to reduce the risk to the contractor, Sadler proposed that the city will purchase the homes that do not sell within 180 days at the previously agreed upon price.

Shukert met with five stakeholder groups and toured the community as he was working on his study. He said the study also found there was a shortage of middle and higher end units. Using census and other data, he said since 2005 about 27 single family homes had been built in the community. That followed a high several years of extensive building growth, which seemed to evaporate in the mid-2000s, he said. With regard to rental properties, Shukert showed data that placed Webster City at the top end of rent fees for the six regional communities surveyed.

Surprisingly, Shukert said the population in the 10 years between 2000 and 2010 had only dropped by 106 even with the loss of jobs through Electrolux. He added that the city has through the years continued to attract seniors to the community.

“You’ve been quite successful at attracting seniors and retaining the younger people,” he said.

Shukert said he also agreed with the action taken in the Brewer Creek project.

“I think that the action that you have taken as a city and a council at Brewer Creek addition is a good one. It’s something that you needed to do to get something going and to build inventory,” said Shukert.

Normally, however, he said the city’s role would be in land and infrastructure. But with the relatively slow absorption of lots and the high cost of developing infrastructure, the city has become the “developer of last resort.”

Strong position

He went on to say that Webster City has strong market position with distinctive assets and a variety of sites available that would be appropriate for new housing. He pointed to Brewer Creek West and the old hospital site as prime locations for building sites. He said the focus on strategic projects should address new single family housing; the acquisition, rehabilitation and resale of existing properties and development of rental properties. Additionally, looking at sites within the city where structures could be infilled would also be appropriate.

Shukert also said a vital downtown area could prove to attract young professionals. He also said a community marketing program is also needed, he said.