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Newton Department of Housing and Zoning hopeful for growth in 2013

Published: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 12:42 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 3:08 p.m. CST

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This year projects to be a big year for local home construction. The Newton Department of Housing and Zoning thinks the positive results from 2012 are an indication of possible success. The Newton Board of Realtors had an increase in sales and the Newton Housing Development Corporation has some elaborate ideas for housing in 2013.

“In 2012,  five building permits were issued for new-construction homes for a combined total valuation of $970,000,” said Erin Chambers, director of Planning and Zoning. “I’m not sure about a prediction for 2013, but given the positive momentum we are seeing in the community, overall pent-up demand, and an improving economy I would hope for an increase over 2012.”

However, new construction would serve no purpose if the Newton housing market wasn’t in a stable position. Geri Doyle, co-owner of the Doyle & DeVoe franchise of Iowa Realty, offers some insights onto the current housing market in Newton.

“They are starting to pick back up,” Doyle said in regards to housing sales. “We actually had a shortage of listings at times last year. We haven’t been this low since 2009. Last year was a fair year. It was one of the stronger years in the past five years. With so many new jobs in the area we expect even more traffic.”

According to numbers provided by the Newton Board of Realtors, last year 233 residential properties were sold that had a Newton address for an average sales price of $87,699 and were on the market an average of 118 days.  And at the end of December, there were only 117 total listings. In 2010 there were 192 open listings during the same time span.  So far in 2013, the board numbers show that there were 15 sales in January, for an average price of $72,425.

Newton Housing Development Corporation has noticed the upswing in sales and at a recent Chamber of Commerce dinner laid out some of their goals for 2013:

• Promote Loft apartment development in the downtown area

• Continuing to work on DMACC student housing facilities

• Facilitate construction in the Whispering Pines subdivision

• To work with the city to facilitate construction in the Fountain Hills subdivision

• To adopt a new city-wide tax abatement program (the current one has sunsetted)

• To continue to encourage the development of condos and townhome units in all price ranges

• Work toward increasing the population of Newton by focusing on attracting young families to the area

• Encourage the city to use TIF and/or bonding to help develop new subdivisions and infrastructure

Local charities are also doing their part to help spark home building in Jasper County. Habitat for Humanity of Mid-Iowa Project Director Doug Garrett said his groups current and future plans for the area.

“It’s a mix, going forward (between building new homes and refurbishing old ones). I can’t tell for sure what we’ll be primarily doing,” Garrett said. “In Jasper County, we have done almost exclusively new builds. Here in Newton, First National Bank donated two lots to us, over on the northeast side. We won’t build on those this year. It will probably be next year before we start. In Jasper County, we still have a lot in Baxter, we have a lot in Mingo and I can’t tell you dates on those. But the next build will definitely be here in Newton.”

Chamber’s said the city also has taken steps to generate more housing construction.

“A Community Housing Assessment Team Study was completed that offered many suggestions for improving housing locally,” Chambers said. “NHDC is one of the lead community organizations that is working on the implementation of the recommendations in the plan. And in October 2012, the Newton City Council adopted a strategy called, Newton’s Future: A Comprehensive Plan. The new comprehensive plan lays out a number of things to do to improve our community, in which housing plays a key role in.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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