Field of Dreams

November 13, 2014

Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Peter Harriman, pharrima@argusleader.com 4:57 p.m. CST November 12, 2014

A planned affordable housing development on the city’s east side came a big step closer into being Wednesday.

Wells Fargo announced a $200,000 grant to a local nonprofit, Affordable Housing Solutions, which is seeking to build a 24-unit affordable housing development at the intersection of 15th Street and Sycamore Avenue.

Affordable Housing Solutions used a previous $56,000 donation from Wells Fargo to develop the initial concepts for its Field of Dreams project, which will include duplexes and townhouses for people making less than 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Dan Murphy, Wells Fargo’s regional president, said the bank’s goal is to establish viable and sustainable affordable housing in Sioux Falls and to have a meaningful impact on the community.

“You almost never go into a community where the bank is doing well and the community is not,” he said. “That starts with affordable housing.”

Sioux Falls Community Development has also contributed $300,000 to the project currently estimated to cost between $2.4 million and $2.8 million when it is complete.

CO-OP Architecture of Sioux Falls contributed initial concept designs for Field of Dreams, and there may be an opportunity to seek support from the South Dakota Housing Development Authority, as well, Sioux Falls Affordable Housing Manager Les Kinstad pointed out.

“It takes a village to make this happen. We’re really pleased to be part of it,” Kinstad said of the partnerships.

As currently envisioned, a pair of duplexes would define the east and west borders of Field of Dreams. Two four-unit townhouses would be on each of the north and south sides. All the units would have either one or two bedrooms.

Parking would be on the perimeter of the development, and all the homes would face an interior green space that may include communal gardens. This will encourage neighbors to get to know each other and build a community, said Shireen Ranschau, executive director of Affordable Housing Solutions.

The scheme is modeled after developments widely used in Oregon and Washington called pocket neighborhoods, she said.

Field of Dreams will be aimed at first-time homeowners who have moderate incomes but who can afford a mortgage. All the units will cost about $130,000 or less. This is a segment of the Sioux Falls housing market that is poorly served now, Ranschau said.

“There are very few houses in that range, and most of those aren’t in good condition,” Ranschau said.

The Field of Dreams name reflects the fact the development site is a vacant field that has never been developed. Its most recent use was for agriculture, Ranschau said.

There is no firm timetable for completing the project because the units can be built in phases as buyers become available, said Wayne Wagner, housing development director for Affordable Housing Solutions. Wagner also said home ownership nationwide is declining, and Field of Dreams would encourage people to invest in a property that is not only a pleasant place to live but would hold its value and allow them to build equity.

Covenants would ensure the property remains affordable housing even as units change ownership, he added.

In the past decade, Kinstad said, according to census data wages have increased an average 13 percent while the cost of housing has gone up 36 percent. This lends urgency to giving people with modest incomes who desire to become homeowners an opportunity to do so.

The benefit to the city at large is stability, say Ranschau and Murphy. North Dakota’s unemployment rate is only 2 percent, and South Dakota’s 3 percent, he said, but the limiting factor on economic growth is not creating jobs but providing affordable housing.

What projects like Field of Dreams can deliver to Sioux Falls “is a good, stable workforce,” Ranschau said. “Homeowners are more likely to stay in a community.”