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Newton Housing Initiative positive example of city’s progress

Published: Friday, July 14, 2017 9:54 a.m. CDT

Since it’s inception in 2014, the Newton Housing Initiative has had a flurry of activity bringing a positive change to the downtrodden housing market in the city. With 20 new houses built and sold between 2015 and 2017 and more than 50 blighted homes addressed through the Dangerous and Dilapidated Program, it is easy to call the initiative a success.

To start, $3.65 million in bonds was set aside to support the initiative in an attempt to aggressively jump-start the home construction market in the community. Prior to the city’s attempt, an entire year went by with no new home construction within Newton.

The program also included a $10,000 cash incentive directed specifically to the buyers of the homes at the time of closing. The incentive has been a popular marketing tool to attract new citizens to the town and is often praised by outside communities for its innovation.

Home builders incentives are also a part of the program with the city agreeing to reimburse all construction loan interest charges for a period of up to 12 months from the time a building permit is issued, and up to a maximum of $10,000 documented interest reimbursement per home for the first 40 speculative homes. As additional incentives, the Newton Housing Development Corporation will work with property owners to negotiate for the subordination of existing lots to builders and the development permit fees would also be waived by the city.

The proof of success is in the results. Of the 20 homes built, approximately half are occupied by new to Newton families and half have school age children. Also, through the new housing, several families decided to remain in Newton who were planning to leave town.

Developments at Fountain Hills, Fairmeadows North and Cardinal Ridge are a few examples of the positive impact of the housing initiative with more work planned for the future.

Not to be forgotten, the D&D Program has made its own lasting impact on the community. One shining example of the changes is the new Jewel Tea Court townhome development located east of Skiff Medical Center. Land that formerly housed several blighted houses was transformed into a “jewel” through the construction of eight high-quality townhomes. Of the eight townhomes, one is sold, one is currently finalizing a sale and four have offers on the table.

The city has also recently sold two multi-lot former D&D properties to be redeveloped into single-family homes and a storage facility.

The next challenge facing the city is identifying new areas to create subdivisions with all available land currently identified. From having no new housing starts less than five years ago, to searching for new land to develop, the Newton Housing Initiative has done its job and then some and it looks to only be getting started.

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