The cost of new construction makes if difficult if not impossible to create new homes that would be defined as affordable housing, according to a local builder. (File photo)

New housing that meets that criteria is impossible in Union Grove, builder says

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

A group of disparate professionals offered viewpoints on what can be done to address a perceived lack of affordable housing within Union Grove during a recent discussion. Finding a silver-bullet solution, however, might not come easy.

Members of the Union Grove Community Development Authority on Nov. 17 resumed a months-long discussion of the deficit in “workforce housing” — a term frequently affixed to affordable options for middle-income wage earners.

This summer, the village CDA brought in multiple experts, including employers and realtors, to discuss what Union Grove officials might do to make the community a one-stop place to live, work and play.

After a respite of several months, the discussion continued this month as the heads of the village’s two local school districts — Union Grove Elementary and Union Grove High schools — shared their views on housing.

The owner of one of Union Grove’s largest employers, Coleman Tool, also was on the call, as was a representative from a local builder.

The sweet spot for workforce housing — in the price point of about $200,000 within Union Grove — is challenging for new construction, based on current trends, said Jan Franki, vice president of Kaerek Homes.

“It would be impossible to build for that price point,” Franki said. “I know that’s hard to hear.”

Multiple factors have played into the rising cost in new construction, Franki said, including the added cost of such key commodities as lumber and increases in wages.

“It’s not to make the builders richer,” Franki said. “It’s just that (increased costs) are demanding that price point.”

From her vantage point, Franki said the realistic ballpark figure, at a minimum, for a new home within Union Grove will hover around $375,000, assuming no major tweaks are needed on a lot to accommodate construction.

Village President Mike Aimone, who sits on the CDA, said Franki’s assertion falls in line with the market realities within the community.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the community. We’re trying to keep pace with the demand,” Aimone said. “But I know what you’re saying is not shocking to anybody here.”

Regardless, the continued lack of workforce housing does impact the local schools, based on anecdotal information from Brenda Stevenson, superintendent of Union Grove Elementary School, and Al Mollerskov, superintendent of Union Grove High School.

Stevenson said some parents open enroll their children into UGES simply because they are unable to find a home within the district’s boundaries.

Mollerskov pointed out the high school’s resident enrollment has been declining; as a result, about 30 percent of UGHS’ current student body is comprised of students living outside the district’s footprint.

On the private sector side, Mike Coleman, president of Coleman Tool, said nearly all of his employees live outside the village.

“The big issue I really see with Union Grove is there’s no public transit,” Coleman said. “And that starter family home, I think, really is a problem for the Union Grove area.”