Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Houses affordable for everyone

Michele Derus reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on how Hartford, in exurban Milwaukee, has some relatively inexpensive homes in new developments.
Hartford's housing philosophy is this: Let the market provide, with minimal interference, what the people want. There are no architectural controls, no development impact fees and just a few consistent rules.

The city's chief requirement is that the development house entry-level workers and executives alike.

As a result,
Most newer Hartford subdivisions mix in modest houses, small lots and/or multi-unit buildings among single-family homes.

Some subdivisions have narrow streets and sidewalks or shallow setbacks.

It all curbs development costs and, in turn, purchase prices, [City Administrator Gary] Koppelberger said.

What do the developers say?
Mike Kaerek, president of West Allis-based Kaerek Homes Inc., which has developed about 400 lots in Hartford, said, "What they ask is never that drastic. On our first subdivision five years ago, they required that 15% be priced at $130,000. Our average price at the time was $160,000 or $170,000, so putting in a few at less wasn't much of a problem. Normally, a piece of land has a section where you'd have narrower lots anyway."

Kevin Dittmar, president of Dittmar Realty Inc. in Menomonee Falls, which has developed 260 lots in Hartford, said lower house prices are due to city policies, not city mandates.

"Their engineering department is efficient, responsible and reasonable. Their guidelines are clear and they don't make endless changes and alterations, like some places do. That has a big effect on the costs of roads, sewer and water, which represent 75% to 80% of costs in a full-service urbanized area," Dittmar said. "Plus, they permit and maintain a good supply of buildable lots, and that holds prices down."


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