The Hawk Eye

The Burlington area will need a net of 1,500 new homes by 2025 to keep pace with economic development and older homes growing obsolete, according to a study presented Tuesday night at the Greater Burlington Partnership.

Des Moines County, the cities of Burlington and West Burlington and Alliant Energy partnered to commission the study from the Chicago branch of Gruen Gruen and Associates.

The study found household size has been decreasing along with population, meaning more houses are used even though fewer total people live in the area. About 40 percent of homes in the Burlington area were built before 1939 and have a median value of $76,000.

“In short, you have households that are older, but there are a lot of them,” researcher Aaron N. Gruen said.

Looking at economic development and new jobs added during the past few years, Gruen and collaborator Debra L. Jeans determined Burlington would need at least 1,500 new homes to supplement the 18,400 currently occupied in Burlington.

But new construction isn’t cheap.

“For new development to be feasible, sales prices have to approximate $180 per square foot or higher,” Jeans said.

Household incomes in Burlington decreased 12 percent since 2000, the study found. Most households now are trying to live on $35,000 a year — not enough to buy a 1,500-square-foot home for $270,000, which is what developers would have to charge to make a profit.

“For the smaller segment of the market that can afford to pay higher prices for housing, it’s feasible to build houses for that market,” Gruen said. “You have this need, but it’s hard to serve this need in a way for the private market to do.”

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