Spencer to Gain 100 New Housing Units
Posted on: February 15, 2020
SPENCER, Iowa — After a long dry-spell for construction of new apartments in Spencer, the city should see 100 new units by mid-summer,
Spencer-based Community Housing, Inc. (CHI) already has 30 new two, three and four-bedroom, income-dependent units partially leased at Southern Pointe, with only landscaping remaining to complete the $4.7 million project. Steve Boote’s Sioux Falls-based Eagle Construction Co. plans to have its $9 million, three story, 70-unit Windcrest Apartments available for market rate leasing.
As Spencer Planning & Zoning director Kirby Schmidt explained recently, he has worked for the city for 25 years. “And Windcrest is the first market-rate apartment I’ve issued a permit for. All the others were either income subsidized, tax credit, or senior housing projects. The last market-rate apartment building was Oak Crete,” a three-story complex with one and two-bedroom units across from East Leach Park on East 4th St. “Oak Crete was built in the early ’90s. That’s a long gap.”
Both Southern Pointe and Windcrest are located in the southwest corner of the city. And both experienced unexpectedly slow construction during the winter, due to early snowfall and frost.
CHI FILLS NEED
CHI leasing agent Brittany Spieker says CHI is filling a need in the low-to-moderate income area with all-electric three and four-bedroom units and four-bedroom townhomes. Rent on a three bedroom unit ranges from $520 per month, to $560, with a limited number of $620, market rate units.
The three-bedroom, two-story townhomes are the most popular, Spieker said. “But it all depends on the family dynamic. The older applicants really like the three-bedroom units because there are no stairs.”
The townhouse units have a full-size first-floor laundry in a 1,125 square-foot space. Kitchen appliances include a dishwasher and microwave oven, along with a stove, and a full-size washer and dryer. CHI also provides window blinds. Internet service is included in the rent, as is a one car garage.
Spieker said, “When you’re in the Southern Pointe apartments you feel like you’re in a downtown Des Moines loft with high ceilings, and exposed duct work. It’s doesn’t feel like you’re in Spencer, Iowa.”
“What’s most unique is the apartments that are handicapped accessible. It’s really awesome to see someone in a wheelchair turn around in a hallway. It’s the simple things I’d never even thought of, like going into a bathroom and turning around. It’s really been great,” Spieker said.
“Every unit meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA ) widths. We even have units with lower kitchen countertops, and some with the lower cabinets removed so that a wheelchair can be rolled under the counters.”
CHI is hoping to have Southern Pointe fully leased by June. “It was been a difficult construction season. We poured concrete in a blizzard.” Landscaping is to be completed as soon as the weather allows. “That is my favorite part of the project,” she added.
CHI marketing director Matt Hauge says rental rates for range from $520 to $570 for a three-bedroom unit, depending on income. “The goal of affordable housing is to keep housing costs to one-third or less of a person’s income.”
Steve Boote says he is, “not just happy, but super excited” to be building his Windcrest Apartments in Spencer — a nearly identical project to the recently opened Tallgrass Village in Spirit Lake, and five others in South Dakota earlier. “It just feels right.”
Prefab walls allowed Boote’s company to work through the winter, and finish most of the exterior before the first day of Spring. That kept several crews busy through the normally slow winter months, Boote said. “In the rural areas it’s tough to get the crews for a project of this size.”
Boote is also building three, six-unit townhomes — with attached garages — next to the three-story, 70-unit complex just north of Southpark Mall. There are garages available for tenants. And, he explained that he has enough land to add a similar 70-unit structure, more townhomes and garages, if there is the need. “A similar complex in Yankton, S.D. is already in its second phase,” he added.
Windcrest includes one, two and three-bedroom units, with a couple efficiency apartments. There is an elevator near the center of the facility where a multipurpose community room is planned.
While some of Boote’s projects have included a fitness area instead of a community room, Boote explained that “Spirit Lake was the first to have the community room instead of a gym, as the Tallgrass complex is located just across the road from the Bedell Family YMCA.” There is also free wi-fi in the Tallgrass community room and a big screen television in the commons area, he said.
Ground was broken in March for three, six-unit townhomes at Windcrest.
“We just opened 10 of these three and four bedroom townhome units in Spirit Lake. Six are leased already — in just a matter of weeks. It’s a unique concept. We studied several plans, toured other communities, and worked hard on the floor plan. They’ve been received extremely well.”
Boote partnered with the city of Spencer in this project after seeing the need, and after Spencer adopted a 10-year tax abatement. “What that does for us in Spencer is get the one bedroom rate down to the low to mid sixes, where it would probably need to be somewhere in the $750 range without the abatement,” he said.
“It is an incredible gift back to the community. Suddenly, housing becomes quite affordable. And, because it is what we call “market-rate” apartments, they aren’t subsidized through a federal or state program where a renter would have to meet income guidelines. Anyone can rent.”
“What we see in our communities, two or three years into it, is that a lot of the younger people in the building, get married, they grow in their job, they buy a house. And that’s the best thing a town has ever seen. For me, it’s the most rewarding part of what we do. We’re going to the rural areas and we’re making it affordable.”
Boote says apartment living has become more common in recent years, “especially since the Dodd-Frank legislation that tightened the criteria for home loans. Appraisal rules have gotten tougher, too. And that has hurt the rural areas the most, because you can’t get the appraisals, they can’t get the downstroke, and they can’t buy.”
Touring the skeleton of what he called a “typical three-bedroom unit,” Boote explained that the units have nine-foot ceilings, a coat closet, a pantry, a bathroom for the kids’ bedroom, a full in-suite laundry, a living area with kitchen, a master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet, and a private bath for mom and dad — all in an apartment.”
The kitchens will feature upgraded appliances like glass-top stoves, Boote said. And each unit will also have a deck.
Boote says he expects to find a broad demographic spectrum in his renters.” Along with the young working people and young families, you’ll see some older residents — empty-nesters and the like.