It still is difficult for some folks to understand there is a housing shortage here in Blue Earth and the rest of Faribault County. You drive around and see for sale signs all over and think, "Hey, there are homes for sale here. What are you talking about?"
But there is a shortage of the types of homes people want to buy these days.
Just ask real estate agency owner Kara Drake.
She stated at the Blue Earth Economic Development Authority meeting this month that there is a scarcity of homes in the $150,000 and up range. In fact, those homes are so scarce in Blue Earth that she has none listed she can show potential buyers. Not one. If there are some, they have offers pending on them.
And, she has quite a few potential buyers looking for just that kind of house, she says.
People these days want that three- or four-bedroom house, two or three bathrooms, family rooms, two-car garage maybe even three-car garage.
And, they want them nice. They don't want to have to do a lot of improvements to them. Move in ready is what they are looking for.
And, hey, we are talking about young families here, with children. And we are talking about young professionals. Our local businesses, hospitals, schools and industries all report a difficult time finding both blue-collar workers and upper level management people.
One reason? No appropriate houses for them to buy so they can live here.
And, if they want to build a nice $150,000 house or $250,000 to $500,000 house there isn't anywhere to do it inside the Blue Earth city limits. There are a few lots, of course, but most are just too small to put a larger, modern home on.
And there is one more category of potential buyer. Older folks like me. Baby boomers. People who are retiring and thinking about selling their home and moving into some place with less maintenance and yet, still have it be a nice place. And I still want that two-car garage. And, I want someone else to mow the lawn and shovel the snow.
Some of our city leaders even think there is a market for some type of senior housing, like town homes or cooperatives, that could attract people from a distance away like Mankato even the Twin Cities to come live in a nice small town after they retire instead of the other way around.
Blue Earth city councilman John Huisman even listed his top three areas of concern for the city to address in 2017 as "housing, housing and housing."
Just like the three most important things in real estate are "location, location, location."
Of course, the location we are talking about here is Faribault County. It is a problem not just reserved for the city of Blue Earth. The other towns in the county also have plenty of housing problems.
Older homes, vacant ones, and not enough houses that people are interested in buying.
Wells also has this problem. In fact, a local citizen there is sponsoring a public meeting about the issue this coming Tuesday at the Wildcat Bar and Grill.
So what is the answer? Is it true that "if you build it, they will come?" If the city of Blue Earth sinks a million or two or three into a housing development area, will housing developers, contractors and potential homeowners all come and buy lots and build nice homes?
Or will the lots sit there unsold and become an albatross around the necks of the City Council?
I sure wish I had the answer to that million-dollar question.
But on the other hand, sitting around and doing nothing gets you nowhere for sure.
It is a good thing the Blue Earth City Council has made this problem a priority. And I wish them well as they work out what to do about it.
They know there is a definite problem. And, while it would sure be nice if some housing developer came to town and was willing to invest in the construction of this potential housing area, that would sure be wonderful. However, the odds of that happening in a smaller community are not so great. So if this is going to happen, it will be up to the city to get the ball rolling.
Or should I say, provide a place where the construction can get rolling.