Affordable housing is the largest need for the City of Storm Lake, according to a community-wide survey included in a recent long-awaited report on housing in the city.
The survey was part of the Storm Lake Housing Needs Assessment, originally commissioned in 1999 as part of a county-wide study.
Some of the goals set by a local housing committee were to assess the quality of the current housing stock, define future needs for housing, and to identify other goals and objectives for both current and future housing in the city.
The housing needs committee includes local realtors, builders, lenders, landlords, ISU Extension and the city.
With a completed study now in hand, Justin Yarosevich, administrative services director for the city, said the data will help the community two-fold.
"It provides a clear understanding of what we have and what we need, and it allows us to go after grants," he said.
While the city administration has been searching out possible housing rehabilitation grants and other funding sources for the past two years, many of those required some sort of housing assessment.
"We haven't applied because we didn't have this done," Yarosevich said.
Yarosevich said the city could start seeing grant funding in a year or two.
The assessment includes a "windshield" inspection of all Storm Lake housing, a survey of citizens, and goals and objectives to address current and future housing needs.
The job of the local housing committee is complete, but Yarosevich noted many expressed interest in working on its goal of providing more information and education to potential homebuyers.
"One of the problems people have about housing is they don't know the process or are afraid of the process," Yarosevich said.
"Right now (committee members) think getting better education out there is important - about how buying a house works, financing, what to expect when they go into a bank, and questions people need to ask," he said.
Solutions could be as simple as having literature available at the public library or hosting community homebuyer workshops, he said.
Another goal of the committee is to look for programs that could provide funds to open up more second story downtown dwellings.
"That area has been on the back burner, but the city council has expressed interest in enhancing the available housing in downtown Storm Lake," Yarosevich said.
Another area identified by the committee is the need to maintain and improve the city's image through continued city-wide clean-up programs and to continue the Clean Sweep program.
Other goals in that area include starting a community program to assist those who can't do rehabilitation or repairs on their own and a curbside recycling program.
The committee also suggested exploring different ways to provide areas for expansion - which is one aspect of housing communities throughout the state have taken a unique approach to in recent years, Yarosevich noted.
"Other cities are doing things to get people to come, such as tax breaks or even becoming home builders themselves," he said. "There are unique approaches, but funding is a big concern."
With the assessment done, there are a variety of opportunities available to the city, he said. "We can address our goals and objectives and find creative ways to get these done," he said.
The findings of the housing needs assessment show a community with an older housing stock - 23.9 percent of it was constructed prior to 1939. Since then it breaks down as 12.3 percent built in the 1940s, 20 percent built in the 1950s, 12.1 percent built in the 1960s, 18.4 percent built in the 1970s, 7.6 percent built between 1980 and 1984, and 3.7 percent built between 1985 and 1988.
Data for construction after 1990 becomes difficult to compile, Yarosevich noted. According to city building permits, 70 single family homes and 21 multi-family homes have been built between 1990 and 1999, while the assessor's office shows 15 homes demolished between 1995 and 1999.
"I know the percentage of construction is small after the 1990s," Yarosevich said.
Storm Lake's population is 10,076, according to 2000 Census data. The city has a current housing stock of 4,174 units, 42 of which are considered deteriorated.
The study included projections for 2005, 2010 and 2020. By 2005, the reports says Storm Lake will need 147 new housing units; 308 by 2010; and 632 by 2020 when the population is projected to be 11,660.
In the survey conducted as part of the housing assessment, about 79.5 percent who returned them lived in houses, and 11.9 percent lived in apartments.
Out of all of the respondents, 22.5 percent said they had been living at the same address for 25 years or more.
Of the renters, 16.6 percent said they had been renting for six to 12 years, which Yarosevich said he was personally surprised to learn. About 34 percent of the renters said they had been at their present address for less than one year.
Out of all of the renters, the two main reasons they said they rented was little or no upkeep (27 percent) and an inability to afford payments (25.5 percent).
Of those surveyed, 52.4 percent said they would not like to own their own home, while 47.6 percent said they would be interested in home ownership.
The biggest need residents saw, according to the survey, was the need for affordable housing (44.1 percent). There was no marked preference between a new single family home or an existing one.
"It shows a lot of comparison there between new and existing homes, with people not differentiating between them," said Yarosevich.
Low to moderately priced homes are what people are looking for - 18.7 percent said they would prefer the price range of $50,000-74,000, and 15.2 percent said they would prefer $75,000-99,999.
For the most part, both residents and the authors of the report agreed on the quality of available housing in Storm Lake.
In the community survey, 43.3 percent was considered in fair condition, 33.2 percent was considered in good condition, 8.4 percent was considered in poor condition, and 6.4 percent was considered deteriorated.
Also, a "windshield" survey was done of every housing unit available in the city. Yarosevich said while it is not scientific, it provides a good impression of the current status of residences.
Those conducting the survey listed 55 percent of the city's residences in fair condition, 31 percent in good condition, 12 percent in poor condition, and 2 percent as deteriorated.
Other information included in the report is the city's income based on median salaries. Yarosevich said the information is also broke down by different sections of town.
"That information can help in terms of getting rehabilitation dollars and low-interest loans to specific areas that need them," he said.
Approximately 36.87 percent of Storm Lake's population is at 80 percent or less of the city's median income of $23,755, according to 1990 Census figures. 2000 Census information is not available.
Also, Yarosevich expressed his satisfaction that the response rate for the survey was 26.5 percent - about 1,105 surveys were returned out of 4,172 distributed in three languages.
Copes of the report are available for viewing at either City Hall or the library.