Affordable housing, those two words can be puzzling and not easily explained. “What is affordable housing?”, a question I am asked often as a Council member. My answer is a healthy inventory of housing at all desired price points. I also need to remind myself that housing isn’t limited to home ownership, renting is also an important key to our housing needs. Technically, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), affordable housing is any housing that costs an owner or renter no more than 30% of gross household income, including utilities.
In an increasingly competitive real estate market, the need for housing at all price levels has reached a critical point. As cities grow and our youth mature, ensuring affordable housing options becomes a top priority. Fortunately, we have local developers who are stepping up to meet our resident’s needs. City staff and I have had many meetings with local developers to discuss and plan ways to fill the need for housing with pricing that is approachable to first-and-second-time buyers. A local realtor recently told me that for every one home sold, up to four additional homes may be positively affected. Encouraging a variety of homes that fit a variety of people’s needs can be a helpful tool to keep rent and home prices competitive, and an essential foundation for affordability. It’s the necessary building block that spurs many other forms of development. The importance of affordable housing may be underrated by some. A healthy inventory of housing is the first step of healthy economic development. Without housing – economic development can become sluggish. In this article, I will list some of the developments that you may not be aware of for meeting affordable housing needs in Sioux City
Affordable housing is not just a matter of economics, it comes with countless benefits for all members of the Sioux City community. It provides stability and security for families, creates jobs in the trades, promotes economic growth, and contributes to a vibrant community. Recognizing the need, our local developers are increasingly focused on constructing housing at all price levels, ranging from government-subsidized units to market-rate apartments.
I am very excited to be working with the developer and city staff on a new development in our Woodbury Heights neighborhood. The plan is to build 50-60 approachably priced homes capped at the $300,000 price point. These homes may be considered entry level for some or the next step home for others. A concept was proposed for a Northside development that will produce approximately 120 homes at varied price levels. Developers are constructing small developments planned in several other areas. We have a handful of homes being built on the East side of the city off Gordon Drive and a new cul-de-sac off 34th street is platted with eight residential lots that will be developed as twin-homes for a total of 16 residential units; a suburban residential development at Eagle Ridge just off of Singing Hills Blvd includes 81 lots; and last but certainly not least, there is the Ridge development on Glenn Ellen Road that will offer 216 apartments.
The City Council has been supportive of a promising trend that has emerged in Sioux City over the last four to five years, the repurposing of commercial buildings into popular apartments and condos. Exciting examples of successful projects are the Copper Flats, Bluebird Flats, Badgerow Flats, the former Everett School, the Benson Building, and several more are under construction. The former Sioux City Hotel located in the heart of downtown is under extensive renovation resulting in 70+ apartments for seniors aged 55+ along with the former Ramada Inn motel now known as Floyd River Flats is being transformed into 47 market rate apartments on our Nebraska St. corridor. The innovative approach of repurposing existing buildings combined with new construction of single-family homes, twin homes, complete home renovations for resale, and apartment complexes, Sioux City is tackling the housing crisis head-on.
Keeping an open mind to include new low-income housing is another necessity that must not be overlooked. The process to identify land and a willing partner to construct the homes was not an easy one. Located on the city’s former West Middle School site, Isabella Square will showcase 11 new single-family homes in the next couple of years. Funded with the city’s ARPA funds, new infrastructure to support the HUD development has been designed and the developer has plans to begin grading within the next year.
The urgent need for housing is real but should not deter potential buyers, as creative solutions are being implemented to address every budget. I believe the topic can be tackled effectively, one step at a time. I intend to continue working towards creative ideas that will produce effective solutions.
By Julie Schoenherr