Valley View

The Valley View development in Kalona is an example of infill housing – building on empty lots within the city.

The housing market in Washington County is healthy, but there is a need for more affordable houses – houses in the $100,000 to $150,000 price range.

The problem is that those homes cost more to build than that.

Local governments need to find innovative ways to provide financial assistance for builders willing to build those homes, according to Amy Haase, a principal with RDG, a planning and design firm commissioned by county cities to study the housing market.

Haase presented the findings of RDG’s housing survey Thursday evening in Kalona and Friday morning in Washington.

The county boasts some powerful assets that would attract homebuyers looking in different price ranges to the area.

The region has a strong job market, respected schools and thriving downtowns in Washington and Kalona.

“Overall, your housing stock in in real good condition,” Haase said.

The challenges local governments and economic development leaders need to address:

• Limited rental options.

• A lack of housing variety in different price points.

• Retaining and attracting young professionals.

• An aging population and limited options for downsizing.

• A limited number of contractors to do renovation projects on homes.

• A lack of lots and the need to do infill development – building homes on empty lots around the cities.

• Code enforcement and property maintenance need to be a priority.

Haase said that governments should develop strategies to address these challenges by partnering with developers to share the development risks, perhaps by giving developers land for building low-income housing or offering tax incentives for building houses that expand the housing variety in cities.

She said that cities should look for existing lots where infrastructure such as water and sewage lines are already in place.

“We have to think about housing development as we do economic development,” Haase said.

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