SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — A pair of homes being built in a subdivision on the north side of Sioux Center are intended to help address the shortage of affordable housing in the growing town of Sioux County.
Farmers Co-Op Society, headquartered in Sioux Center, announced a project with the How-To Building Center (which itself is part of the co-op) and the Sioux Center Land Development Corporation this spring to build a pair of entry-level homes.
Construction has begun on both homes – single-story, three-bedroom, two-bathroom residences with approximately 1,400 square feet of living space each, plus a basement and attached two-car garage. Eric Cleveringa, service manager at How-To, the general contractor, said the homes are expected to be completed by early fall.
Once on the market, homes could cost around $300,000 or a little more, most of which covers the cost of building materials, land and labor.
“We’re not looking to make a lot of money with these houses,” Cleveringa said. “It’s hard to even say what’s affordable in this current market.”
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Dennis Dokter, director of economic development for the Sioux Center, said the need for more housing is acute. Once upon a time, he said, there were about 70 or 80 homes for sale in the Sioux Center area. Today, only a fraction of that number is listed.
A search of real estate listings in Sioux Center showed maybe half a dozen homes currently for sale. Rental advertisements are also rare.
“The number of homes on the market is minimal right now, and I think you see that in every market,” Dokter said.
Housing prices have reached extraordinary levels across much of the United States, and housing availability has been quite low. In January this year, more than half of the homes sold in the country cost more than their list price as buyers bid against each other for homes. The median price of a home in the United States is now $375,300, up 15% from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Several large Sioux Center employers — including Farmers Co-Op, How-To, Pella Windows, Interstates, Sioux Center Health and Dordt University — have attracted new residents to the town of more than 8,000 people. US Census data shows that Sioux Center has seen marked population increases in each decade of its existence, most recently an increase of approximately 16.8%, or more than 1,000 new residents, between 2010 and 2020.
“The community is just growing. It’s growing pretty quickly,” said Jen Sawyer, director of marketing and communications at Farmers Co-Op Society. “It’s not just Sioux Center. It would be all the surrounding areas. It’s hard to find a house here. People are looking, and it’s just a challenge.”
The co-op project, Sawyer said, has been in the works for just over a year.
Employers looking for new hires began to struggle with the limited availability of housing in Sioux Center, a situation familiar to cities in the Sioux City metro area.
“There just aren’t a lot of potential homes,” Cleveringa said.
The city of Sioux Center, Dokter said, is awaiting the results of a housing needs assessment. The report, he added, should serve to reassure developers that demand exists for any houses or speculative apartment complexes they might choose to build. “It’s documented here, there’s a need, and if you build, people will come.”
Two houses, Sawyer said, is “a small, small bucket,” but it’s a place to start. Depending on how everything goes with the first two houses, the project could expand to surrounding communities.
“We see the opportunity in other communities, we just hope we can find good partners,” she said.