HURON — A comprehensive study of Huron’s housing availability in all categories confirms what local officials suspected — that with very low vacancy rates, the city is in dire need of more units for people to buy and rent.
“I think it will open some doors with developers,” Mayor David McGirr said after a presentation of the study findings at Monday’s City Commission meeting.
With a steady rise in population since Dakota Provisions opened seven years ago, the housing market has been squeezed. The study reveals that there is a need for all types of housing, said Greater Huron Development Corporation Executive Director Jim Borszich.
Steve Griesert, of Community Partners Research Inc. of Faribault, Minn., spent about 45 minutes sharing the highlights of his firm’s analysis, covered in a 112-page report.
From 2000 to 2010, Huron added 699 residents, for a 5.9 percent gain.
“That’s a really nice increase” at a time when other cities are experiencing declining populations, he said.
He projects Huron’s population will rise by another 370 people by 2015. Also between 2000 and 2010, the number of households rose by 145, or 2.7 percent.
Household size is also somewhat greater, indicating that families are moving to Huron.
“Very seldom do we see household sizes going up, so that’s a positive for your city,” Griesert said.
Incomes grew by 30 percent between 2000 and 2011. The Asian population climbed substantially in the last three years, and Griesert estimates between 1,600 and 1,800 Karen immigrants live in Huron.
The company did a “windshield survey” of housing units in four of the older neighborhoods. Sixteen percent require no work, 31 percent need minor repairs, 38 percent need a lot of work and 16 percent are beyond repair. For that last category, the recommendation is to acquire and demolish those structures. In 2010, there were 2,477 rental units in Huron.
Griesert said Huron has many strengths for housing development, including affordable housing, the fact that it is a regional center, has adequate land, a diverse economy and is a desirable location for seniors and retirees.
“A good place to live is what it amounts to,” he said.
But the barriers to housing development, including the age and condition of much of the housing stock, is a concern.
There is a low rent structure, low-paying jobs and limited housing agency staff resources.
The study makes 23 recommendations in five different categories.
For example, it says Huron should have 151 to 169 more housing units of various kinds available in the next five years. It includes a mixed use project for the downtown.
Huron should promote home ownership by developing a low down payment assistance program.
The study recommends having 30 to 35 new homes available annually over the next five years.
The city should monitor vacant lot availability and develop an affordable subdivision with 14 to 16 lots.
Griesert said the city should promote town home and twin home development, as those are attractive to empty nesters. It should promote rental housing rehabilitation programs, as well as programs to fix up owner-occupied structures.
Also, the city should develop a neighborhood revitalization program and a rental inspection program. The inspection program is in the works after receiving recent approval by the commission.
There are 120 homes that can be considered dilapidated and which should be acquired and demolished.
Griesert said Huron should also develop mobile home park improvement programs and, with a high number of immigrants, should address racial and ethnic minority population housing issues.
Huron has an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, and the area has added nearly 1,000 jobs over the last seven years.
Study findings will be posted online at www.huronsd.com.
For the complete article see the 03-12-2013 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-12-2013 paper.