Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Community discusses housing

Dec 20, 2017
WEDG director Ed Raber hosts a meeting Tuesday to discuss the future of housing in Washington County.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


On Tuesday, about 40 builders, bankers, city officials, and other interested parties gathered in a conference room at Kirkwood Washington to discuss the housing market in Washington County and what the market would look like in the future during the Washington Economic Development Group’s (WEDG) second housing forum.

After the meeting, WEDG director Ed Raber said that no plans had been made, but that wasn’t the idea of the meeting. Raber said much of the discussion revolved around things that weren’t happening in the county and what barriers exist. He said the overall idea was just to get people thinking in the direction of improving the housing market in Washington County and to get people to know each other for possible future projects together.

“I tried to show some of the positive economic trends that have been happening across Washington County and its communities,” Raber said. “It is almost evenly spread among our communities, which is a rare thing. We end up talking about housing, and we just haven’t been generating the same number of homes as we had up until the housing crisis of about 2007.”

He hopes people at the meeting will reach out to each other to further discuss the issue.

During discussion, lenders in the community spoke of the possibility of banks collaborating for loans. Again, Raber said no decisions were made.

“I’ve had lenders explain to me one of the actual changes that has happened since 2007 that may or may not be due to the housing crisis, is the cost of building a home has really equalized,” Raber said.

Raber said during the forum that Washington County has seen a 2.5 percent growth in population over the last 10 years. Still, he said, the amount of housing being built in the county has decreased since 2007. Raber said that the cost of lots in Washington County is significantly more expensive than in Johnson County, where housing development is being done. The discussion turned to finding people who owned land and wanted to sell it for a reasonable price or people who wanted to partner with others to develop land.

For over an hour, the group discussed the potential of the growing county and the housing market.

“I’m hopeful people feel empowered to contact each other and have more conversations about ideas to try,” Raber said.

Raber believes another forum would be held next year.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Dec 20, 2017 23:56


A group is planning to build eight housing units on West Grimes near the part of town known as New Chicago in Fairfield.

Buzz Allen and Gail Crotta are directors of Accelerated Learning Foundation, and own about three-fifths of the block between West Grimes and West Depot avenues, and between North Third and North Fourth streets. They presented a plan to the Fairfield City Council Monday to build two triplexes and two single-family residences in the middle of the block, between the businesses on North Fourth Street, and the old rectory and DeCoursey Hall on North Third Street, which they own.

Jeffrey Hedquist, a marketer and collaborator in the project, told the council New Chicago is one of the most blighted parts of town, but also the one with the most potential. He said the units would be targeted to two demographic groups: those 65-years-old and older, and “millennials,” or young people. The homes would be built according to Vastu specifications, and would include gardens and other landscaping to make them inviting. They would all be rentals.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the council accept a planned unit development for the housing project, which the council did. The council passed the first reading of an ordinance to rezone the land from B1 General Business District to a planned unit development.

Assuming the council approves all three readings of the ordinance, Hedquist said construction will likely start in the spring or summer of 2018. He said parking would be included at the property.

Mayor Ed Malloy said he was pleased to see the economic activity the Accelerated Learning Foundation has planned for the area. Councilors asked the developers if they would have to remove any trees, and the developers said they would not. In fact, they want to maintain as much greenery as they can, and talked about adding gardens to the area.

The developers said they don’t know how much the total project will cost, but they did share a few facts about the buildings. Hedquist said they will be “zero net” also known as “passive” homes, meaning they will be so well insulated that they will barely need heating or cooling. He said the homes would be built with fire resistant panels that are light and easy to put together. The developers said the units would be for low- to moderate-income households. Hedquist said the group is exploring the idea of obtaining state tax credits.

Fairfield Economic Development Association executive director Joshua Laraby said he was pleased to learn Monday the council is behind more housing construction.

“We’re happy for the council’s support of this development,” he said. “This is a great project to continue the revitalization of the New Chicago district.”

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