City trying to find ways to encourage more construction
Chris Ackley would like to stay in the city.
The firefighter and paramedic is on his second house with his family in Beaver Dam. Looking forward, he would like to have a house with newer construction on a bigger lot with room for his kids to play. His current house has a front yard that’s bigger than the backyard. Lots in the older parts of town might have a larger yard, but then the houses are older, too.
The right-sized lot with room for new construction has not been easy to come by.
“It would be nice to have some development that looks at what are the needs of people who want a home, a nice house with a big backyard,” Ackley said. “We have to move out to the country to do that and that’s not really in our repertoire. We like the city.”
Beaver Dam has projects in the works for multi-family housing, including two new apartment complexes on the north side that are moving forward, but single-family developments haven’t been sprouting up. During the spring election, candidates for the Common Council said they want to make single-family housing a priority in the new term.
Mayor Becky Glewen said attracting developers has been something she’s been working on since she took office in April 2017.
“We have to be the one that stands out for the contractors to want to come this way and feel they can make a profit,” she said.
Glewen said Beaver Dam is not alone with many communities across the area and state having the same struggle. She said that given the rising costs of construction and infrastructure, companies choose to stay closer to larger cities like Madison, where there are more homeowners who can afford more expensive houses.
According to Zillow, the median price of homes listed in Madison is just under $300,000, while in suburban Verona — home to fast-growing electronic health records company Epic Systems — the median price is $376,450. In Beaver Dam, the median price is $182,450.
“It makes it a lot more difficult for the numbers to pan out for them,” Glewen said of the home price variations.
She said communities all over are experiencing a housing shortage and there aren’t easy ways to incentivize developers.
Amanda Kemmel, the executive director of the Eastern Ridge Home Builders Association, which covers Dodge County, pointed to another issue. She said after the 2008 recession, many home builders got out of the business entirely.
“If I go online and look up builders in Beaver Dam, there’s not many and that’s really crazy,” she said.
Kemmel said a lot of the companies are backed up into 2020 with projects. People still want to build a house and don’t care if the price is up, but she said they still need a lot and a builder to make it happen.
Kemmel said that could mean opportunities in the long run for those interested in getting into the construction industry, with some firms hiring people right out of high school. She said there are opportunities to get connected with building jobs.
Glewen said the hope is to find a contractor that sees opportunity based on the growth the city is having in other areas.
“There’s no magic bullet to take care of the problem,” she said.