Over the past several months, a lot of people have asked me about available housing in Polk County.

Some of these people are first-time buyers while others are seeking to ‘downsize’ to a smaller home or even ‘senior housing’ with less maintenance and responsibilities.

There are also those who wish to rent an apartment. It seems that many people are looking for places to live, but with limited success.

The fact of the matter is that the demand for housing is exceeding the supply in Polk County.

One might think that if the demand for homes and apartments is great enough, then builders and developers will quickly begin construction to meet that demand. But the answer is not that simple.

New construction is becoming more expensive due to, among other things, rising material costs along with increased government regulations.

In addition, many observers feel mortgages have been more difficult to acquire since the housing ‘bubble’ burst nearly a decade ago.

“Speculation” is almost a thing of the past when it comes to housing construction because of the risk and uncertainty around potential buyers being able to pay for new construction.

Many of the larger businesses and manufacturers in Polk County have also expressed the need for more housing.

The reason is that as their business grows they will need more workers. And if more workers come to our area for jobs, they will need a place to live. If there is no affordable housing, then they may choose to seek employment elsewhere.

While the local economy in Polk County is strong, this strength will be limited unless new housing units and related infrastructure are developed.

For this reason, leaders from businesses, real estate, county and local government, banking and school districts have been participating with the Polk County Economic Development Corporation in a series of meetings to discuss the challenges and opportunities to increase all types of housing in the area.

There may not be a ‘silver bullet’ solution, but ideas are being generated along with a growing awareness of the diverse and unique needs of each community.

This is a good start that is already generating early signs of progress.

The fact of the matter is that all of these participants can play a role in generating momentum for housing in Polk County.

Bankers and realtors have insights into mortgage options and tools to fit the needs of the buyer.

Our local governments can review and possibly streamline some regulations to assist builders and home buyers, and some businesses can consider benefits that may assist their employees in securing a place to live.

One key is for home seekers to do their homework and communicate. Talk to your banker, your realtor, your local government, and your employer. Find out what resources are available and learn about options that can assist you in finding the type of home you desire - new or existing.

Polk County’s future can be great and making sure our housing inventory matches the needs of our citizens is necessary… and doable.

The Polk County Economic Development Corporation is a public-private organization that was created to encourage and promote economic development and capital investment, create and retain quality jobs, enhance the tax base and facilitate positive sustainable growth throughout Polk County, Wisconsin.

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