Initial report of Red Oak housing options completed by committee
The Red Oak Rural Housing Readiness Assessment committee has completed its initial report on housing in the community.
The assessment was part of collaboration between the Montgomery County Development Corporation, the City of Red Oak, Iowa State University Extension, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. At the Red Oak City Council meeting March 6, the council heard from spokesperson Joey Norris, who shared that a 160-page report had been drafted and presented to the council.
“It was intended to be a tool to help Red Oak assess its housing needs, and then guide the decision-making process to address those needs,” Norris said. “The committees were all roughly affiliated with housing, be it the public side, building side, or finance side. We formed the committee in May of 2022.”
Norris said the community was polled on their ideas regarding Red Oak’s housing needs. Norris was pleased with the response.
“We held a survey between July 7 and Aug. 7 of 2022. We had 532 responses, which is about 10% of the community. The survey responses were used to guide what we thought Red Oak should look like as a community a decade from now,” Norris stated.
Thanks to the survey and other research, Norris said they were able to get some key takeaways on the demographics.
“Our median household income after taxes is about $54,000. When it comes to affordability of housing, it’s about a third of the median income, which translates to about $1,300 per month for mortgage, rent, utilities, and insurance. Our per-unit valuation for new construction doubled from 2000, so everyone feels that housing costs are going up, and the estimated average housing value in Red Oak is $77,000,” explained Norris.
The survey included comment from homeowners outside of Red Oak, who shared their preferences should they consider a move to the community.
“The highest interest we received from out of city survey respondents was that they want existing, new family housing. The next was senior housing, and new construction for single-family housing. If we were to solicit them to come to Red Oak, those were the areas we should be looking at,” commented Norris. “Also, a number of them mentioned that community amenities would be a major motivator to move here, and the home style of preference that they’d want to move to was townhomes, which is interesting because we have someone wanting to do that.”
The committee established three subcommittees. Among the items agreed upon by the subcommittees was to design local housing incentives and secure funding, create a revolving loan fund, evaluate and expand infrastructure, and re-establish Habitat for Humanity.
“Habit for Humanity used to have a Montgomery County Chapter, but they went away. The Fuller Center is currently in use as a scaled back version. Habitat for Humanity has a moratorium on starting new chapters, and while ours has been defunct for several years, we’re trying to re-establish it. We wouldn’t be building brand-new houses, but we could establish an exterior improvement incentive program, teamed up with the Fuller Center with their resources and expertise could extend our money a lot further if they could help us do it right,” advised Norris.
Norris said while the assessment tells the community where it’s at in housing readiness, the work is not done, and the RHRA has given the city a path.
“We really need a commitment moving forward. The council established a housing committee, but it says it could be temporary or permanent. The committee recommends the council commit to treating housing as a priority, via a permanent housing committee,” said Norris.
From there, Norris suggested the council empower the committee to achieve group work goals, and, as it continues the process of searching for a new city administrator, that the city administrator candidates be assessed specifically on their housing expertise, and how they prioritize housing.
“This assessment process is a resource to help us go back and utilize as a tool. Inside of the 160 page assessment are resources Iowa State has given us, and other additional thoughts. We’ll be going back to it repeatedly throughout the next year to tell the council why we did the research and exactly how to use the resources. You don’t need to go through all of it, but it’s an important tool,” stated Norris.
As they proceed further, Norris said they needed patience while they finalize what incentive programs will look like, as well as commitment.
“As the city decides what resources to invest in on the city’s behalf, housing has to be among the top priorities in Red Oak. Our workers are committed to helping, and we need the council committed to prioritizing housing,” Norris commented.
The council also approved the re-appointment of Roger Vial to the Downtown Urban Renewal Board. Red Oak Mayor Shawnna Silvius said Vial had agreed to re-appointment following discussions.
“Christie Vanderhom, myself, Roger Vial, and two other members of the DUR board met and discussed the ways we’d be working with the DUR Board moving forward. With those changes, Vial agreed to be reappointed to the board, and I anticipate he’ll continue on as chairman of that board. He’s very important to the board, and we’re grateful to have him back,” said Silvius.