Merrill housing shortage: Get paid to build a house in Merrill
TINA L. SCOTT
The real estate housing market in Merrill is rough right now.
Within the community, businesses everywhere are hiring. It seems like everywhere you look, there is a Help Wanted sign. Which could bring more people to Merrill and help to grow the community and the economy. Except …
Where will they live?
“Merrill has a housing shortage,” said Dave Johnson, City Administrator for the City of Merrill. The City is working to alleviate that shortage and getting creative with how to do it.
Incentives for contractors to develop in Merrill
They started out by identifying areas for development, offering the land to contractors for a nominal value on the condition they would build new housing on the property, and then also offering incentives to contractors to build new homes or apartment complexes on those properties.
“Two new single-family home developments began in Fall 2020,” Johnson said. One was on West St. Paul Street and the other on Edgewater Drive. “These Tax Increment District [TID] No. 11 developments included City-owned land sold for $1.00 and $10,000 development incentive upon new home completion with occupancy permit.”
Basically that means the City sold the land for $1 on the condition the contractor would invest their own money into building on the land, and then when the homes are/were completed, ready for someone to purchase/reside in the home, then the City awards them a $10,000 development incentive which reduces the contractor’s investment in building by that $10,000. It turns out to be a win-win-win. Vacant land is put to good use for housing Merrill needs, the contractor saves and thus wants to invest in building in Merrill, new homes are available for purchase for families in Merrill, and those new homes now generate real estate tax revenue for Merrill. And that revenue eventually recovers the City’s $10,000 investment.
“Several new homes have been completed with others currently under construction in what are now known as the Champagne Park and Rock Ridge Park subdivisions with more new homes to follow,” Johnson added. Those builds utilized similar incentives.
Incentives for individuals, too
“At its last meeting [on Tuesday, July 13], the Merrill Common Council approved a new incentive program for individuals or contractors to build homes on privately owned parcels within the City of Merrill,” Johnson said. “Anyone building a new home within a Tax Increment District (TID), or within a half mile of a TID can receive up to a $10,000 incentive when the home is completed.”
“The incentive program was approved for immediate implementation,” he said. “To qualify for the $10,000, a new home must be valued at $200,000 or more. Homes valued at less than $200,000 will receive a prorated amount.”
“In addition, the same incentive was approved for areas not in a TID, or within a half mile, to be paid from the General Fund beginning in 2022,” Johnson said. “The non-TID area funds will be limited to a yet-to-be-determined number of homes per year.”
“Incentive payments will be made upon completion of the home,” he confirmed.
Vacant City-owned properties are sold
“This morning we opened sealed bids on 11 vacant properties that the City obtained from the County for delinquent property taxes,” Johnson added. “We received 34 total bids, with the high winning bid being $3,000 and low winning bid being $585, with 10 of the 11 properties receiving bids.”
“The multiple bids demonstrate that there is interest in vacant parcels in the City,” he said.
“Two of the winning bidders on multiple properties are known building contractors,” he added. “The City is hoping to see homes built on these lots.”