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Council Discusses Lamar Housing Status – Growth Potential

 

Municipal Offices in Lamar

 

The Lamar City Council opened discussions on developing construction for new houses in the city during their January 7th work session.  Available and affordable housing has a direct bearing on business development in Lamar, a point of discussion that has been addressed on numerable occasions by a variety of municipal and civic organizations such as PEP roundtable meetings regarding housing.  And, as Lamar City Administrator, John Sutherland pointed out; part of the problem is the, ‘chicken or egg’ scenario.  Would new business interests in Lamar begin to drive housing construction by local contractors, or would new housing development attract new business to the community?  In either case, the answer is a probable, ‘yes’.   In either case, the details are in the dollars. Sutherland addressed the council, “We’re looking for some guidance…what type of housing do we want?  Nobody out there is doing anything in the area of mid-range priced housing.”

Mayor Roger Stagner said Sutherland and another councilperson have been talking with an outside developer, but the city doesn’t have the funding to commit to constructing houses with the hopes of selling them. “What do we do if we commit funds to a house that sits empty for months and months.  We have to pay the interest on it and if there’s a city emergency, we’ve committed our funds,” he explained.

There have been very few houses built on ‘spec’ in Lamar in recent years. A housing needs assessment was conducted in southeast Colorado in the latter part of 2017 by the Community Strategies Institute for SECED, Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development. The study, as presented to SECED and various parties, indicated the basic lack of capital to address the inadequacies in housing and infrastructure is a challenge because investors believe that as the economy now stands, there is too small a return on investment in order to risk capital.

The study also outlined four main goals that can be used as a starting point to bring the opportunities into reality: Provide a full range of decent housing choices in southeast Colorado with special efforts directed at the housing needs of groups which are not easily served by the private market.  These include moderate and lower income families of various sizes; promote the preservation of the existing housing stock and older neighborhoods by improving the housing and upgrading neighborhood infrastructure and conditions.  Create innovative partnerships between government and the private sector by creating ordinances, plans and policies that expand housing opportunities and support economic diversity and facilitate and support housing activities carried out by community groups and individuals.

Because of a lack of a decent return on investment, few local contractors are willing to invest funding to build a home that may not be purchased in a short enough span to be profitable. County Commissioner, Ron Cook, attended the work session and pointed out some basic economic construction costs, “A new, 1,500 square foot house at $125 a square foot comes to $187,500 and that’s the cost without the property,” he stated.

One source, Sutherland said, is the Colorado Rural Housing Development Corporation, a 501c3 organization which is a HUD Housing Counseling Agency he has contacted and is awaiting a reply for any interest from them. While CRHDC has worked in low to moderate income modular housing, the moderate-priced level is something that would probably best suit Lamar’s needs.  He suggested that some alternatives be addressed when the PEP roundtable meetings resume in 2019.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarConsumer IssuesEconomyEmploymentFeaturedHousing

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