By Deb Hadachek
Belleville Telescope editor
You don’t know what you have or what you need until you actually go look. That’s the point behind a Housing Assessment Tool windshield survey volunteers will undertake in Belleville Thursday night, July 10, as they drive the community, rating the condition of houses, vacant lots and commercial properties. People interested in helping are asked to gather at the Belleville City Office at 6:30 p.m.
“We need evidence,” says Luke Mahin, Republic County economic development director, who is coordinating the survey. “We need to get a better idea of where open lots are, potential development sites, where we can expand. “We need more evidence than to say `we think this is what we have’.”
Teams of volunteers will be sent to different neighborhoods to rate the properties: standard units (livable housing), deteriorated (those that need work), dilapidated (unlivable), commercial property and empty lots.
About 15 people showed up at the first housing meeting, Mahin said, and he’s hoping more volunteers will step forward Thursday night. Other communities in the county, including Scandia, Courtland and Cuba, also have plans to do housing assessments.
Helps with funding
Mahin said there is funding available to help develop housing and infrastructure, but most programs require that a housing assessment be completed fi rst. At the fi rst meeting, volunteers compiled basic information on demographics and other aspects of the community.
Mahin said the Pioneer Group project underway at the former Republic County Middle School is a start to meet the community’s housing needs, but more market rate units to rent are needed. Buffalo Apartments are a mix of low-to-moderate and market rate rentals.
“It’s always hard to tell the demand here because no one lists rental units,” he said, “but we would be lucky if there are 10 available at any given time. I know Buffalo Apartments has had three or four inquiries already about renting space.” Mahin said he has had calls in recent months from a half dozen people who want to retire in Republic County. Others have employment here and are seeking rentals until they can find a house to move into. Some of the people expressing interest in the Buffalo Apartments are people who want to downsize from a house. Results of the housing assessment will be presented to the Housing Interagency Advisory Committee, which matches communities