More housing options are critical for growth

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News Multiple new single family homes are being built in the Eagles Ridge subdivision by New Leaf Homes. The city's demand for residential units remains high, as the current property stock for sale remains low.

BELOIT - A strong available housing stock is one of the critical factors considered by both corporations and families when decisions are being made where to locate business enterprises or choose a place to live.

According to Century 21 broker-owner Mike Marquette, Beloit's housing market has improved since the dark days of 2008 with bright spots emerging as property values increase and demand for residential properties remains high. The remaining issue is finding enough housing stock to provide choices that appeal to potential buyers. On that subject, Beloit has been falling short with a need for more available homes.

According to state real estate data, home values have increased to the highest they've been since 2009, with annual total home sales surpassing 2,000 homes since 2014. But Marquette said a lack of new construction and available units was still holding Beloit's growth back.

At the time of an interview with Marquette on March 19, there were only 38 active listings of homes for sale in the city, with 17 in Beloit township.

"We're seeing people want to sell and upgrade their homes in the same area, and those upgrades just aren't available," Marquette said. "That's what's pushing people to look elsewhere."

Marquette said Beloit frequently loses new families and workers employed in the city to communities like Rockton, Roscoe and South Beloit. At its peak, Marquette said he recalled past residential developments, citing Park Meadow, selling 100 homes in a year from new construction, saying now "a dozen" new construction homes "is a good year and what is the norm right now."

But Beloit's average home sale value - around $99,000 - is much lower than neighboring communities, pointing to the average sale values of township homes selling for $177,000.

"We're seeing a 90 percent home sale rate of Beloit homes listed," Marquette said.

Homes are typically on the market for two-and-a-half months with multiple offers, two factors driven by the lack of inventory of new construction.

"It's gotten to the point where what the market needs right now is new rooftops," he added.

He said high construction costs for building materials and infrastructure projects were things barring Beloit's growth.

Trends from home buyers, Marquette said, showed people are looking to move to Beloit for work or to start families, but stressed Beloit still has a lingering perception of problems, including issues in the School District of Beloit, a top issue cited by prospective homebuyers.

He said the city's past issues involving a reputation for crime has diminished. Beloit's crime rate continues to show decreases in violent crime for the last three years, according to Beloit Police Department data.

"There's a sense of security here now that wasn't there in 2009," Marquette said. "Before we had downtown revitalized, there wasn't much going on. The crime element has dissipated over time."

New construction of homes and apartments in the city has focused primarily on two areas - downtown and near the city's Gateway Business Park. In the downtown, Hendricks Commercial Properties has pursued multiple projects turning properties into city apartments. Apartment construction in the Gateway offers a different element for residents. Areas of high multi-family growth include the Eagles Ridge area and Blackhawk Run.

Depending on the roll out, the city could also see future growth in the Oaks subdivision, with a plan underway to add between 19 and 40 homes in the future.

To spur low-income homeownership Hendricks Family Foundation, Beloit 200, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and Stand Together are helping fund a $2.9 million transitional initiative by Milwaukee-based ACTS Housing to bring 150 renting families into homeownership. The five-year program is set to kick off this summer.

Program participants will be able to select areas of the city they would like to live, but ACTS Housing Executive Director Michael Gosman said up to half of all transactions could come in the Merrill and Hackett neighborhoods, with prospective home buyers having estimated annual incomes of $20,000 to $35,000. The two neighborhoods are at the center of a federally-funded Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) plan to improve both areas, an effort that saw its first year of progress in 2018.

Funding provided by NRSA, Community Action and Family Services helped 447 residents access resources in 2018, and the city helped foster home ownership for qualified individuals as part of 11 renovations in 2018, including four owner-occupied renovations, six rentals and one new home construction.

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