Local leaders will look to answer the demand for more affordable housing in Marshfield
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Jason Angell, Marshfield’s Director of Planning & Economic Development, spoke before the city council on Tuesday night to propose developing a city-owned subdivision for residential housing.
Still in its initial planning stages, no specific location has been targeted for the proposed subdivision, but the basic idea is to create more affordable housing within the city of Marshfield, which was identified as a need in 2014 Marshfield Housing Study conducted by the consulting firm MSA Professional Services, Inc. The city’s goal is to create housing falling in the price range of $125,000-$200,000.
In the proposed subdivision, the city would purchase lots and sell them to buyers looking to construct a home. Mayor Chris Meyer said that by having the city purchase the lots, the cost of the homes could be kept low.
“In order to get a house that’s under $200,000, you have got to have it on a lot that is less than $40,000,” Meyer said. “So by paying for the infrastructure as a community in that subdivision, we get the lot prices down, which gets the house price down to an area that is in this zone that we’ve identified in the housing study.”
Certain “covenants”—such as a minimum square footage, number of bedrooms, time frame to begin and complete construction, and assessed value—would need to be agreed upon between the lot buyer and the city.
The proposal calls for the acquisition of 25 lots on a 12-acre site, and the subdivision would be financed via investments by the City of Marshfield, Wood County, Marshfield Utility, and Marshfield Wastewater Utility. In the proposal those entities would invest an amount over seven years equal to the estimated value the homes would return in tax or utility bill revenues once built over that same time period.
With an added investment of $150,000 from the Economic Development Board, which is funded via annual dividend payments that Marshfield Utilities pays to the city, the subdivision would have an estimated investment of just over $782,000, a total project planners feel would be sufficient to acquire and develop the subdivision land.
“What we’re looking at is for a partnership to come together to help make this happen,” Angell said.
In researching the issue by talking to developers, realtors, bankers, and builders, the city found a demand for this level of housing. However, Angell said that the price of lots within the city of Marshfield is currently too high to accommodate homes within the $125,000-$200,000 price range.
“Although there are lots that are available in this community, those lots are in subdivisions primarily that are targeted for higher end homes,” Angell said. “Talking with our bankers, they seem to represent to us that there is a great deal of demand of people that would have interest in this. In talking with our builders, they say, ‘You know what, we don’t see it as competition because we can’t build in that price range without some sort of assistance,’” said Angell.
Angell said the next step in the process will be to revisit the idea with the potential investors in February and ask for a commitment to move forward with the project.
What the city council members said:
Tom Buttke: “I’m very interested in this. On the surface it looks like a great thing to do. It looks like it should work.”
Gordy Earll: “I think it’s a good idea. I think there are some possibilities, but I think there have to be some safeguards in here too in regard to length of time that someone can sit on a lot before the house is actually up, and I understand there are plans to do that type of planning.”
Peter Hendler: “This is a good investment. Believe me. Most of the time you don’t think of government getting into areas like this, but I think this was a well thought out plan, and it’s a one-time shot, and we’ve got an opportunity here. And as a result, we should support this.”