Looking at a 10-year graph, 2017 stands out. It really was a remarkable year in the area of housing starts for the community of Newton.
According to data compiled by the Department of Public Works, Engineering Division, there were 116 housing starts in Newton in 2017. By comparison, there were 106 housing starts in the five year period — 2012 to 2016 — prior to 2017.
“This will be one of those odd years on the charts, but it does give you hope that there are good things coming for Newton,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for Newton.
What fueled that big number for 2017 is the launch of two different multi-family housing projects — Prairie Fire and Cottonwood Crossing.
Prairie Fire Residences is an $11 million project with 63 housing units in 21 tri-plexes. Within the not-yet-completed development, 10 units have already been leased. According to Prairie Fire, the development will be finished in February or March.
Cottonwood Crossing is a $5 million project with 42 units — 32 apartments and five duplexes. Originally scheduled for completion in December of 2017, the project is now expected to be finished in February. Like Prairie Fire, 10 units have already been leased.
Combined, the two developments account for 105 of the 116 housing starts in 2017.
“That is probably the biggest number (of multi-family units) that we have ever had here (opening at one time) in Newton,” Loomis said.
According to the Public Works Department, there were 11 other homes started in 2017 — most of those in Sand Creek Station development. In 2017 six homes were started at the golf course. Two homes were started just south of that development in the Spring Lake development on South Main. Three other homes were started in Newton during 2017, all outside of 11 active housing developments.
“2017 was a pretty remarkable year in that we had so many multi-family units that it peaked the chart at 116 total,” Loomis said. “If you go back in time, to 2007, we were hitting around 50 starts per year. In 2008 we saw a downturn in the economy and we saw, nationwide, that housing starts really plummeted at that time. Starts were flat, then started to rise later.”
Between 2009 and 2016, the peak year saw 30 starts in 2012. The 10 year high for starts in Newton, prior to 2017, was 63 in 2007.
There is room for more — lots more. According to the Public Works Department, there are 614 platted lots — more than 500 of them south of U.S. 50 — sprinkled across 11 housing developments. Of those, 110 are ready for a home to be built.
“(Build ready lots) are the lots that have water, sewer and paved streets all to those lots. Someone could come to pull a building permit and build on that lot today,” Loomis said.
Of the lots ready for a home to be constructed, 12 are for homes that are below $150,000, 41 are for homes between $150,000 and $180,000, 47 are for homes between $180,000 and $200,000 and seven are for homes up to $280,000.
“The bulk of the lots that are available to be developed today are in additions where the value of the home is in the mid-range,” Loomis said.