More housing is crucial to FD’s future

Eliminating the shortage is crucial if economic boom is to continue

The economic boom that is transforming Fort Dodge and Webster County can continue for many years to come. Unfortunately, however, it could stall if a severe shortage of desirable housing –both new homes and rental units is allowed to persist.

Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, told The Messenger recently that our town needs both more housing units and a greater diversity in the types of choices available. People considering accepting employment here too often are finding that the types of residences they seek aren’t readily available in Fort Dodge or nearby communities. Some of the folks who are finding the employment opportunities in our county very much to their liking are not choosing to live here because there is limited availability of the types of housing they seek.

The Messenger reported extensively on this problem on Oct. 1. We reported that employers are discovering that new hires are choosing to live as far away as Ames and a significant number of people approved by local banks for mortgages are failing to buy here because they can’t find what they regard as a suitable home to buy.

That’s distressing and could have a negative impact on economic growth there. Plautz told this newspaper that this problem is a major concern.

“Right now, I believe the biggest threat to economic growth in Fort Dodge would be the ability to get a trained workforce,” he said. “That’s why quality of life is so important and housing is part of quality of life.”

Fortunately, an array major efforts by builders both in Fort Dodge and nearby towns are underway that will help address the housing shortage. The city government and Fort Dodge Betterment Foundation have worked collaboratively with others to get new construction launched. Anyone driving about our town will see some of these units already being built. More are coming in the months just ahead. Additionally, Badger, Clarion, Eagle Grove, Gowrie, Humboldt, Pocahontas and Webster City are among the communities where housing initiatives are either in progress or being actively promoted.

Locally, in addition to houses there is an acute need for apartments. As downtown Fort Dodge is reimagined, there are many wonderful, architecturally exciting historic buildings that would be outstanding venues for superb apartment complexes. Serious consideration of the possibilities is already in the works with respect to some of them. It is our hope that even more will soon be become candidates for renovation for innovative housing and commercial uses.

There are various parts of town that also would be excellent locations for apartment buildings.

The city’s comprehensive plan recommends putting apartments downtown and on the city’s west side by Iowa Central Community College and UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center.

It is imperative that imaginative thinking take place to make certain that our town has the housing necessary to support what is emerging as a vibrant economic future. We applaud the work that has already been done in this regard and lend our support to the further efforts that must take place in the months and years ahead. Our town has the potential to be one of the Hawkeye State’s most successful communities. We all need to work hard to make certain that nothing stands in the way of that future materializing.