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Lake Park takes first steps to address housing

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LAKE PARK, Iowa — The community of Lake Park is in the midst of assessing properties and compiling applications after being awarded a $246,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to target housing rehabilitation in its community.

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Carol Keizer, a grant administrator with the Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission, said the grant agreement is still with the State of Iowa, but she hopes the first dollars can be awarded this fall.

Plans are to rehabilitate approximately eight owner-occupied homes with the grant dollars, said Keizer.

The program is just the first step in addressing housing needs in the community.

About a year and a half ago, the community established the Lake Park Housing Authority, but it quickly realized that in order to get some projects going, it would need some start-up funds. Thanks to Paul Johnson, Lake Park’s new representative on the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors, and the county auditor, it was discovered that a Tax Increment Financing fund had been established in 2011 for the community of Lake Park. That fund had grown to almost half a million dollars.

“I went back to my colleagues on the board of supervisors and asked to transfer the money held in reserve as start-up funding for the Lake Park Housing Authority,” Johnson said.

“They were reluctant to let go of that money, but fortunately they decided to do it,” Johnson added.

“Because the money stemmed from tax increment financing payments, it was earmarked solely for use in low- to moderate-income housing,” explained Lake Park City Administrator Wade Wagoner.

“We can use the TIF money for down-payment assistance and rehabilitation assistance,” Wagoner said, adding that qualified applicants had to meet the low- to moderate-income eligibility guidelines. “We had finite funds and decided to apply for the (Community Development Block Grant) to basically stretch the housing authority’s dollars.”

Lake Park’s application for grant dollars was one of 59 received by the state.

“Little old Lake Park was one of 19 cities that received the award,” shared Wagoner.

The $246,000 block grant awarded to the community required a 10 percent match, which came from the TIF funds returned to the Lake Park Housing Authority by the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors.

The block grant will target homes within an area just east of the community’s downtown business district, bordered by Avenue C, East Fifth Street, Railroad Street and Market Street.

“We’re trying to make a difference and improve our housing stock,” Wagoner said.

Lance Heikens, president of the Lake Park Housing Authority, said that since the grant was awarded, the authority has been working with low- to moderate-income individuals and families within the target area to consider improvements.

The grants will be available to applicants for a variety of projects, from new windows and siding to shingles.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure some of the existing housing stock in town … is fixed up so the existing housing stock looks nice,” Heikens said. “More than anything, what we would love to be able to use funds for is for applicants who qualify for down-payment assistance. That’s the other option we have for utilizing these funds.”

Through the down-payment assistance program, the Lake Park Housing Authority can grant individuals up to 10 percent of their down-payment costs — again, if they qualify as low to moderate income.

“Any of these homes that are for sale in town, we can move a low to moderate income individual or family … into a home here in town by helping them with their down payment,” Heikens said. “That becomes another way to make sure that the housing stock in town is used.”

Heikens said Lake Park hasn’t seen a housing boom yet, but with continued business growth in the region — and just down the road at Polaris in Spirit Lake — the community is poised for housing expansion.

“We’re trying to get some new programs established,” he said, adding that housing is at the forefront of discussions with the Lake Park City Council, the public utilities board and Lake Park Community Development Corporation.

“There is a need in Lake Park for additional housing,” Heikens said, explaining that he has been on a bandwagon for the past five years to get an assisted living facility constructed in the community.

“If we had a nice assisted living facility, I think that would free up some existing, fairly nice older homes,” he said. “If we had a nice facility in town, (residents in need of such services) would be willing to move. Right now, they have to go to Spirit Lake or Milford or somewhere else.”

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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