NEWTON, Iowa — When Maytag left town in 2007, Newton lost around 1300 jobs. Now, some 12 years later, 14 new employers have come to town and those lost jobs have been more than replaced.
The problem facing the city five years ago was a lack of housing. There was no place to put the new people who came to take those new jobs.
“If nothing is going on in a marketplace, and you really want something to happen, doing nothing is not an option,” said Craig Armstrong, the City of Newton Economic Development Director.
The city council decided to offer $10,000 in cash to people building new homes in Newton. The stipulation to receive money was they only needed to build a home worth $160,000 over the land cost and install some radon monitoring. That was it. There was no requirement to stay a certain length of time and no direction on how the money could be spent. In most cases, there would be no tax on the $10,000.
“Newton is growing. We have sold 42 houses since this $10,000 in incentive started,” said Bruce Showalter of the Newton Housing Development Corporation. “Half of those are new families to Newton.”
Newton Housing Development has seen 10 new housing developers do projects in town, and they’ve launched new developments to build those houses.
“We had an opportunity to buy some existing lots that were already developed but not built on,” said Showalter. “Along with that came seven acres of ground that we have converted into 23 lots. It’s called Fairmeadows North Plat 8.”
The city has paid for the program using general obligation bonds.
“They are beginning to pay taxes immediately, unlike tax abatement that takes money out of the county’s pocket, [it] takes money out of the school district’s pocket. They start paying taxes right from day one,” said Armstrong. “It has been going on almost five years now, and we’re thrilled with the results because it’s working. We’re building homes.”
The $10,000 incentive will run through the year 2020.