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Housing study focuses on city's 'market potential'

NEW: Local developers are already at work building new market-rate apartments and condos in the downtown area.

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

Wabash could see the creation of more than 300 new housing units within the next five years if city leaders and local developers heed the advice of a housing market study conducted this spring.

The Plain Dealer reviewed a copy of the housing production plan, which was conducted by Housing Performance Group and Zimmerman/Volk Associates and provided to the City in May.

The report suggests building anywhere from 220 to 360 new housing units here by 2023.

Most of the study’s policy suggestions are already being pursued, such as a recommendation that the City encourage infill housing on vacant lots where blighted properties have been demolished. And the three sites identified in the report are already considered prime locations for new housing: The downtown area, where construction of new apartments and condos is already underway, is identified as one location, along with the old hospital site and the vacant lot on Bond Street.

The recommended timeline calls for the creation of 44-60 housing units within the next two years alone. About half of those proposed units are loft-style apartments. But the report also recommends building new rowhouses, townhouses, cottages, urban houses and executive-style housing over the five-year period.

The housing production plan considered market potential rather than market demand in determining recommended apartment and home prices, citing negative population growth as the reason to consider the types of housing prospective new residents are looking for.

Forty-eight percent of potential renters or buyers identified by the report are already living within city limits. But it also identified potential households elsewhere in Wabash County and nearby counties, as well as another 18 percent who are currently residing outside the region but may consider moving here. Overall, the report estimates that up to 380 households with incomes of more than $40,000 have the potential to move within or to Wabash each year.

The target markets identified are families, younger singles or couples without children, and empty-nesters or retirees.

A key piece of the report is its suggestion that apartments could rent at or above market-rate.

The study suggests that prospective renters may be willing to pay between $750 to $1,000 per month for loft apartments downtown. And larger, upscale apartments at the old hospital site and Bond Street lot could rent for up to $1,500 per month, according to the report’s findings.

The downtown area may see more rowhouses and townhouses over the next five years too, but the report recommends only building two to three such units per year.

The old hospital and Bond Street sites would have more options for new housing than the downtown area, according to the housing production plan.

The report estimates that anywhere between 95-125 new housing units, including lofts, townhouses and cottages, could be built at the old hospital site within five years. It suggests another 105-145 new housing units could be built at the Bond Street site. Recommending housing types at that site include upscale apartments, condos, townhouses and urban houses.