Lake Mills program helps 5 families get new homes

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Note: Printed with Permission from The Globe-Gazette, article by Julie Birkedal.
Heartland Properties worked with the City of Lake Mills to help organize the single-family housing program.
LAKE MILLS - Thanks to a program that allows homeowners to qualify for almost $20,000 in incentives, five families have new homes in Lake Mills' Eastgate area.
The recent burst of home-building in Lake Mills is partly due to a community-wide incentive program involving government as well as industry, said Al Larson, the chairman of the Lake Mills Development Group.
Among the incentives are a five-year tax abatement valued at $12,500, a $5,000 forgivable loan granted through the Winnebago County Housing Trust and $2,250 in Lake Mills Bucks for goods and services purchased in Lake Mills.
"This is how, and the only way, we can get housing to grow in this town," Larson said.
Mark and Vicky Senne moved into their new home last week.
"If somebody wants to give me $6,600 and no taxes for five years, I'm not going to tell them no," Mark Senne said.
Marcus Jensen said he and his wife, who now live in Minnesota, hope to move into their new Eastgate home by July 1.
Jensen, who has worked for Larson Contracting for five years, said they have wanted to move to Lake Mills but didn't expect to be able to do so until they looked at the incentive program.
In all, the community will see 52 new housing units built this summer, Larson said. Thirty-five of those are part of an assisted-living complex. About a dozen homes are being built by community residents wanting to take a step up.
Both types of building projects will free up existing homes. But a significant shortage of available homes in the $40,000 to $60,000 bracket prompted community leaders last fall to develop a special program, said Daryl Sherman, chairman of the Lake Mills Housing Committee. Through that program, the five new Eastgate homes are being completed.
As Lake Mills school superintendent, Sherman said he has long been interested in promoting affordable housing in Lake Mills to help ensure steady school enrollment.
There are approximately 2,000 employees working in Lake Mills industries, but two-thirds of that workforce commutes, Lake Mills officials said. Workers come from places like Joice, Mason City and Scarville in Iowa as well as nearby Minnesota communities such as Kiester and Emmons.
"A side benefit of this project is we're also creating more shoppers in town, more demand for goods and services in our community," Sherman said.
As a result of the need for more new housing to enable more people who work in the community to live in Lake Mills, Sherman said the housing committee agreed to bring the five manufactured homes to the community.
A number of community-minded individuals agreed to seek a $450,000 bank loan to obtain the homes, Sherman said.
"The people who pooled together to pay for the housing costs before the closing dates did this because they want to see the community grow," Sherman said.
Property owners at Eastgate agreed to sell the improved lots for only $8,500, Larson said. Single family houses built by All American Homes, each providing about 1,200 to 1,300 square feet of space, were then purchased for about $85,000.
Buyers of those properties acquired lots at lesser prices as well as special grants through Winnebago Co-op Telephone Association and Lund Food Holdings, Larson said.
Larry and Christy Mathahs are taking part in the program and hope to move into their new Eastgate home by mid-July.
"For Larry and I, it was pretty much an offer we couldn't refuse," said Christy Mathahs.
"It was like the whole program was made for us."

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