New housing permits in Clear Lake at record level

by Marianne Gasaway

In a year in which economic trends have tended to be headed downward, Clear Lake is bucking the trend.  The community has already far surpassed the number of new single family housing construction permits it typically issues.

“The pandemic has not dampened the desire to want to live in Clear Lake.  I think primarily this is an attractive place to live and raise a family.  Secondly, interest rates are at a historic low, so it is a good time to build or re-invest in property in Clear Lake,” said City Administrator Scott Flory.

“Clear Lake is a special place — it’s the quality of life— a Norman Rockwell style of life, and an active Chamber that draws people here,” said Tim Stenberg, who began developing subdivisions in Clear Lake in 2003.  “In the early 2000s we realized we needed to lure young people to Clear Lake with housing options that would work for them.”

Stenberg is currently filling lots in his Sunset Ridge Residential Subdivision on the north side of Clear Lake.  The first phase of the area was opened in August 2015 with 15 building lots.  With just three lots remaining, an 11-lot second phase has been approved by the city.  The area was sparked by an adjacent Stenberg development known as Pine Brooke.

“Several Pine Brooke owners loved the area, with its proximity to Highway 18, groceries and the Surf District.  Now they are ready for the oversize lots at Sunset Ridge,” he added.

Stenberg has also developed Venetian Estates, Redstone and Fredriksen’s on First.

The reimagined One Vision campus has also created a variety of new housing options on the north side of Clear Lake.  A 48-unit independent senior living apartment building, known as TimberCrest at Glen Oaks, was constructed in 2020.  Phase one of the Glen Oaks campus redevelopment project also included converting two One Vision cottages into townhomes.

As is often the case in development projects, the City of Clear Lake, played a part in helping One Vision and others make their housing plans a reality.

The City often supplies infrastructure support for developments, such as extending water and sanitary sewer lines.   Flory explained the city acted as a conduit borrower for One Vision, to help the organization take advantage of tax-exempt financing.  One Vision’s $15 million projects represented just over half of the city’s $29,111,353 (total value) of the 370 building permits issued by the City in 2018. In addition to residential and commercial permits, the number includes roofing, garage, siding, accessory building, miscellaneous (decks, sheds, etc), mechanical and foundation work.

The south side of Clear Lake has also seen significant growth in recent years, primarily within the Stone Cliff development.  Phase one of the area featured 23 building lots; phase two had 19 lots and phase three, 23.

“This year we have 10 houses under construction and with only three lots left in phase three, we are looking at phase four,” said realtor/developer Dick Hayes, of Lake Iowa Realty.  “It’s a great family area, with a good mix of younger and older families, and in addition to it being a beautiful area, it has easy access to Mason City.”

Hayes has been instrumental in developing Clear Lake properties since the 1980s.  His projects have included expansions on North 8th Street, Buddy Holly Place and Oakwood Ranch on south shore.

“Clear Lake is a place people want to live and can afford to build,” said Hayes.  “And now is a good time to work with banks for extremely favorable financing.”

In recent years Clear Lake has also become a popular development spot for companies which utilize tax development credits from the state.  Recently, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) approved a Clear Lake housing project in its announcement of awards totaling almost $10 million.   IEDA’s Workforce Housing Tax Credit program provides tax benefits to provide housing in Iowa communities, focusing primarily on those projects using abandoned,

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