HHousing experts see continued strong demand throughout this decade for Joplin, and they recommend doubling down on construction.
City officials this week received the results of a comprehensive housing market analysis commissioned from a Philadelphia firm, Urban Partners. The results were discussed Monday at a Joplin City Council business meeting.
City Manager Nick Edwards said the biggest takeaway for him is that Joplin needs more housing options at all levels and price points for different ages and demographics.
“We need more affordable housing. We need more housing for the workforce. We need housing for seniors and we need more housing for the younger generation. There is a widespread need for additional housing,” Edwards said.
“What opened my eyes was that the consultant said that to stay in step with this future need, the city should double its current level of home construction. For me, when you try to double whatever whatever, it’s a tough proposition,” he said.
To achieve this growth, city officials and industry stakeholders will need to focus on this goal diligently, he added.
“If people don’t have the housing options they’re looking for, they won’t live here,” he said. “We will export our talent and that will lead to decline.”
There are still voids left by the destruction of property caused by the May 2011 tornado in addition to growth and changing needs, said the city’s director of planning and development, Troy Bolander.
“We did several (housing studies) after the disaster (2011) because our housing market was upside down. In this case, for a healthy community, there are several areas to look at. One of them is housing. We must ensure that we meet housing needs, not only for today, but also for tomorrow. We all have limited funds in the public and private sectors and we all need to make sure we spend them wisely to meet housing needs,” Bolander said.
While it’s not news that Joplin has an older population, “which is unusual for Joplin, and we’ve seen this for a few years, is because of our medical complex in Joplin, we see a lot of retirees from small communities come to Joplin for their medical services and move to Joplin,” he said. “We’ve also had situations where someone grew up in Joplin and went to work and now wants to come home and take It’s a demographic that we’re looking at as well, a lot of them have disposable income and they spend their money in the community.
“Additionally, we need to make sure that we build housing that appeals to young people. It’s part of the equation” for healthy growth, Bolander said. “You need to look at job opportunities and amenities and make sure you’re providing the services that appeal to this demographic.”
Another trend reflected in the study is young people wanting to move into older or historic neighborhoods, which in Joplin are located near downtown.
“I like to say what’s old is new again,” Bolander said.
Scott Marshall, of Gardner and Marshall Construction and past president of the Home Builders Association of Southwest Missouri, said of the study’s recommendation that housing construction double: “From what I see, there’s strong demand for new homes. But I don’t think the workforce is there to meet the demand.
He said there is a shortage of trades people for jobs such as framing, electrical and HVAC installation and other jobs.
“People got the idea that you’re not going to make a good salary when you work with your hands,” he said. But he said he made his living in construction and is content knowing the work gives families a place to live and make memories.
The Franklin Technology Center in Joplin has a building trades program and is working to bring students into the program, Marshall said. The Home Builders Association works with Franklin Tech to promote the trades by providing scholarships to help students purchase tools and other equipment to start working.
Key findings of the study include recommendations for strategies to encourage various types of housing development. These include recommendations for seniors’ housing, the town centre, improving the older housing stock and the long-term availability of homes that are affordable for people with low to moderate incomes.
The study reports that, consistent with national demographic trends, 96% of household growth over the next 10 years in Joplin will be led by households 65 years of age or older.
It projects that demand for seniors housing through 2030 will grow by 1,009 owner-occupied units and 310 rentals, which the consultants say will be well above any other sector of Joplin’s housing market.
Some of the suggested strategies to address this housing need:
• Evaluate the feasibility of initiating a seniors’ residence modification program to provide grants, low-interest loans and/or volunteer labor for renovations to existing residences such as installing ramps, stairlifts, grab bars in the bathroom and the conversion of bedrooms on the ground floor.
• Encourage new, low-maintenance, single-story homes built or modified close to businesses, services, trails and outdoor recreation areas. In Joplin, these could be downtown or in older traditional neighborhoods such as Murphysburg and East Town, or near major corridors such as Range Line Road, 32nd Street, and near hospitals and medical centers.
• To supply zoning for intergenerational living that could allow seniors to live with their families.
• Continue work with developers of apartments for low-income seniors.
Retiring baby boomers and millennials, as well as those of younger Gen Z, increasingly prefer walkable communities with urban amenities, entertainment, culture and education like downtown Joplin, according to the study.
It is recommended to the city:
• Work with developers and home builders to build denser housing types such as townhouses, apartments and condominiums.
• Evaluate the feasibility of offering employer-supported housing programs and/or cash incentives to new residents to move downtown. The study reports that Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma offer $10,000 to relocate to those with jobs.
• To consider create a zoning district superimposed on downtown to regulate design standards, building setbacks, building heights and parking requirements.
Lori Haun, director of the Downtown Joplin Alliance, said the downtown currently has about 500 residents, although it currently has no lofts and apartments.
It will have around 200 lofts and apartments available over the next three years. These will include renovations to three key downtown historic buildings: the Olivia Apartments, the former Downtown Y and the Frisco Building.
“We need a lot…more than we have. About 5% of the (Joplin) community is expected to live in or around downtown,” Haun said.
She reviewed the study and its recommendations and said of the ones done on downtown: “I feel like we’ve worked on a lot of these things before and it’s much more viable now” to develop residential units downtown than in recent decades.
The district currently has a zoning overlay that encourages redevelopment of properties, Haun said. She added that offering incentives to move to Joplin as a whole is an idea that should be considered.
City programs should continue to support the rehabilitation of older homes, the consultants said. Improving neighborhoods, including replacing unsafe structures, is one of the goals of the action plan the city plans to pursue with revenue from a use tax that voters approved in November.
The study reports that nearly 40 percent of all homes in Joplin were built before 1970, according to census data. In 2019, there were 1,700 long-term vacant homes due to decay, legal issues, or other circumstances that prevent secure occupancy.
Many older homes are underperforming in the market and would require major investments to retain their value, the study says.
It is recommended:
• The city consider a program to track vacant or distressed properties with an inventory.
• To consider provide incentives for the demolition and replacement of troubled homes, which is already one of the action plans the city has adopted for neighborhood revitalization.
• Partner with service providers for a housing improvement program in older neighborhoods to stabilize the housing stock. A pilot program could be considered in neighborhoods such as North Heights, East Town and Emerson, the study suggests.
• To consider property tax abatement for major home repairs, although Joplin has a low property tax at present.
• Work with local lending institutions to establish and widely distribute mortgage products that support the purchase and rehabilitation of homes.