Mason City council sets public hearing on moving three homes as part of housing development initiative

MASON CITY — The City Council in Mason City this week set a public hearing for later this month on a proposal to move three houses to three different properties to save them from being torn down as part of a redevelopment project.

The new owners of the property that formerly contained the Blackmore Nursery on State Highway 122 near MercyOne hospital also own several adjoining lots, including three that contain houses. The owners intend to redevelop the area into commercial property and offered the houses for free, provided they are moved from the site at the mover’s expense.

The proposal the council will consider later this month is for the North Iowa Corridor Housing Development Corporation to purchase three properties the city currently owns that used to contain blighted houses that were demolished after the city took ownership.

North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation CEO Chad Schreck says it’s a good opportunity to save those homes.  “We’re trying to get some nice houses, fill up those lots, get them on the market for an affordable workforce housing opportunity. I think each one of those is about 900 square feet. We’ll do a basement for each of those, and they have garages that will also be moved in this process. Obviously there will have to be some updates, things like that, with all that as part of the process, but our goal is going to be to try to turn those essentially as close to our cost as we can, and then roll that, whatever those sale prices are, roll that money back into the next project and just keep it going.”

Schreck says the new housing corporation will not only focus on opportunities like this, but also work on other opportunities to create single family and multiple-family homes.  “It provides another avenue for us to kind of work through some of these. Some of these projects aren’t super profitable, so there’s not a private entity that’s excited to do them. That’s where we can come in. We’re not trying to double our money or make 8% or whatever the going rate is on some of these investments. We just want to make sure that there’s good quality housing available to our community.”

Schreck says the program is trying to address housing needs at all income levels in the community.  “There will be potentially a low-income component. We’re trying to be flexible in what it would be. If we want it to be open to market rate, cleaning up blighted areas, trying to keep it as open as we can so that we can address whatever issues arise as they do, and make sure we are just hitting where the meat areas are and things that aren’t being accomplished privately. We’re not going to try to compete through this entity with anybody privately, we just want to make sure that those projects that are, especially in the current climate with financing being what it is, the cost of that, the cost of materials being up, some of these more affordable homes, they are just not as profitable for the private side to take care of.”

If approved, the homes would be moved to 1526 South Taft, 220 and 220 ½ 12th Southeast and 316 5th Northwest. The public hearing will be held at the council’s September 19th meeting.