Westbrook Estates Addressing Need for Workforce Housing in Yankton

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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Cities are only just beginning to understand the importance of developing “workforce housing,” a term for housing that combines affordability with proximity to the workplace. Workforce housing is a prerequisite for economic growth because it helps attract and retain workers.

When businesses in Yankton expressed concern that a lack of affordable housing was making it difficult to recruit workers, the city and Yankton Area Progressive Growth (YAPG) decided to take action. They commissioned a housing study in 2013 to understand the full scope of the problem and outline a range of solutions.

The primary need identified by the study was for more affordable, non-subsidized, housing units for middle income families. For it to be affordable, a family would have to spend less than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing.

YAPG led the initial effort to create Westbrook Estates to help fill this need for affordable housing. A 72-unit apartment complex was completed in 2016. Apartments range from $550 to $990 per month.

An adjacent development includes single family homes, twin homes and fourplexes priced from $150,000 to $212,000. Twenty-seven single family homes have been built and 26 have already sold. Sixteen fourplexes were built and 10 have been sold. Of the 10 twin homes, seven have sold.

The success of the first phase of this project led to plans to build additional housing units. Private developers took over the second phase of development, which is currently underway. Eagle Construction just completed construction on the second apartment building, which opens June 1. Nielson Construction is developing the homes.

Kelly Nielson owns Nielson Construction, which had mainly operated in the Sioux Falls metro area. Nielson says he was pleased when YAPG approached him with the opportunity to develop the project’s second phase. “Expanding in Yankton was a comfortable expansion. I’m familiar with the area. I grew up in that general area my whole life.”

The homes Nielson is constructing are at what he calls an “entry-level price,” which he acknowledges is a challenge to produce, with the rising costs of materials and labor. “It’s all about volume. You have to build in bulk to get reasonable discounts,” he says. “You have to put in 15-20 homes at time to get a subcontractor’s attention so they come in at a reasonable price.”

In this second building phase, Nielson will develop 30 acres, with roughly 56 lots and a mix of housing options. He expects 10-20 more homes to be available before winter.

In this phase of development, the developer isn’t completely limited by the $212,000 price cap. Twenty of the lots will be for market rate housing and can be custom-built to owner specifications. The company offers various house plans with different internal layouts.

A total of 216 units (homes, townhomes and apartments) will be added to the Yankton community through these efforts. This additional workforce housing created with the Westbrook Estates will help improve worker recruitment and retention. Attracting new families to the region will also improve Yankton’s overall economic vitality.


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