With the working premise “build it and they will come,” Hankinson continues to prioritize housing as an economic development tool.
Housing is not an industrial or commercial enterprise, but it brings new people to the community, which bolsters Main Avenue, the school district and churches, stressed Bob Wurl, president and CEO of Lincoln State Bank, and secretary/treasurer of the Hankinson Community Development Corporation.
Three new houses were built on Dakota Drive with city funds. Two sold, both to newcomers who now live in Hankinson. The third house, a single family dwelling at 101 Dakota Drive, is still for sale and was recently placed on the online real estate site Zillow. A picture of that house is shown in the photo above.
A strong economy, low unemployment rate, burgeoning Millennial buyers and high savings rate combines with low mortgage rates to make the housing market inviting for home buyers. Bloomberg Economics reports the U.S. housing market is stable and optimistic — backed by a strong economic forecast.
New-home sales have been on the upswing across the country in both 2016 and 2017. The November surge last year was the highest since January 1992, Bloomberg reported.
Turning the corner
Hankinson is secluded from the national scene, but traditionally has attracted buyers to city developments, although slower than planners expected. Dakota Drive was created 20 years ago and still has two open and adjacent lots that can be purchased to make a larger home. There are incentives in place since the specials are almost paid off for this development, Wurl said.
The third house built by the combined forces of the city, CDC and Hankinson Housing Authority is one level, two bedrooms, two baths with a double stall garage. It is posted at $167,900, said Kelly Hubrig, president of the city’s Housing Authority.
“In a small town, that is pretty big economic development to add three new houses,” Hubrig said.
The decision to add more housing options was made 20 years ago by the CDC, Wurl said. Granted, it steered the commission away from its retail and industrial focus, but there wasn’t a new neighborhood within the city at the time and the CDC wanted to encourage continuous new homes here. The property that eventually became Dakota Drive was on the market, so the CDC purchased it for residential development, he said.
If there are jobs available across the region, there has to be a place for workers to live, Wurl added.
“Not to dog pile on Gwinner, but if you use that city, historically it has a large number of jobs available. But how many people actually live in the community? If we add more housing, more people are in the hardware store, grocery store and cafe. As many as we can encourage people to live here, it is better for the community,” he added.
Housing is a perennial problem for many small communities that lack desirable homes for sale.
Milnor solved this problem. A bedroom community to the Bobcat plant in Gwinner, Milnor created a development that Hankinson modeled for its 40-lot addition on the city’s north side called Prairie Pines.
Housing was pinpointed as a problem years ago, prompting the city to work in partnership with the Community Development Corporation to create a solution.
Housing was also determined to be the biggest problem in a recent News-Monitor Media story that asked residents of Hankinson, Lidgerwood, Wyndmere and Fairmount to determine what the top priority was in their communities.
The answer was the same — housing.
It became a major hurdle a few years ago for Dan Dalchow, who wanted to move to Wyndmere after he accepted a position as the public school superintendent, but could not find a house he wanted to buy. After hearing about a home that might go on the market, Dalchow actually knocked on the door to say he wanted to buy the house if it went up for sale.
Fairmount Mayor Jon Nelk said earlier the proverbial elephant in the room for Fairmount is its lack of housing. The city council has tried to tempt developers into building spec homes here, but continue to run into the problem that potential buyers want all the amenities of a new house — large lots and granite countertops — at a much reduced cost.
That makes it undesirable to build a spec home here because developers are unable to recoup the cost of construction.