A new housing report predicts the need for an additional 1,580 housing units in Willmar by 2030

It is predicted that seniors will see the most population growth and make up a large portion of the additional housing needed in Willmar and Kandiyohi County by 2030.

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Workers install windows in the Block 25 Lofts apartments under construction in downtown Willmar on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. The project will add 58 rental housing units to Willmar's housing stock.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — There is an estimated demand for an additional 1,580 housing units in the city of Willmar between 2022 and 2030, according to an updated housing report completed by Viewpoint Consulting .

Aaron Backman, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commissio n, presented the report Monday at the Willmar City Council meeting, noting the last housing report was completed in 2015 and “a number of things have transpired since that time.”

There were two reports completed — one specific to the city of Willmar and one that is county-wide. Kandiyohi County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the city of Willmar, the EDC and a grant secured by the West Central Association of Realtors financed the studies.

Backman presented the report specific to Willmar at the council meeting and will be presenting the county-wide report at a future Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The updated report calculated the demand for housing and the types of housing that should be developed during the next five years to accommodate the housing needs.


While population growth is expected among all age groups, it is the senior population that is expected to grow more quickly.

“The number one category for housing needs in Willmar, and, by the way, I would also add in the rest of the county, too — senior housing,” Backman said, noting the report calls for an additional 615 units for senior housing.

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He pointed out that the population of seniors aged 75 to 84 in Willmar is projected to increase by 49% between now and 2030. It is projected to increase 55% for the entire county.

“A 55% increase in senior population, needing housing, and they may not find it here,” Backman said. “How do we address that? That’s part of our challenge. ... We better be thinking about housing for seniors.”

The report recommends that 240 of the 615 housing units needed to accommodate the senior population growth be for those 55 and older without the need for additional services, and 375 housing units be for seniors who need services.

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Newly constructed Edgeview Apartments on the northern edge of Willmar are shown Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Construction is almost complete on an additional 144 units at the apartment complex, which will help the city of Willmar alleviate some pent-up housing needs.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

“It is recommended that a market-rate, senior, 55-plus rental development be added to Willmar with 80 to 100 units in the next five years,” Backman said. “I can tell you that I’ve already had several conversations with developers that have been pining away for this report.”

The development of senior housing could be in the form of a multi-story building or single-story townhomes with attached garages, he added, noting the cost to rent such units should range from $1,200 for a one-bedroom unit or $1,400 for a two-bedroom unit.

The report also projected the need for an additional 165 to 195 units of senior housing that are a mix of independent living, assisted living and memory care in the next five years, Backman noted.


He offered Bethesda North Pointe in New London as an example of what could be built in Willmar to accommodate those needs. Bethesda North Pointe was a $17 million project that opened in fall of 2021 and includes 70 units of independent living, assisted living and memory care units.

“If you’re going to do that, you’re going to need a certain amount of land — looking at that 10, 12 acres, perhaps 15 acres, of land. So part of what we do is we guide the developers to land that we think would make sense for development,” Backman said about how to accomplish meeting those housing needs.

Other housing needs

Of the 1,580 housing units needed in Willmar, the report calls for a projected need of 415 ownership housing units and 550 rental units.

These needs are to accommodate the projected addition of 2,685 people in the city of Willmar during the 2020s. The report showed that Willmar grew by 820 people in the 1990s, 1,259 people in the 2000s and 1,405 people in the 2010s, according to census reports.

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An empty lot on Shady Lane in Willmar is shown Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. This is one of the 70 lots in the city of Willmar that have sewer, water and road infrastructure in place to accommodate new construction.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

“You know, the city of Willmar is, I think, in some ways unique,” Backman commented. “Since it was founded in the 1870s, the city’s population has grown every single census — 14 consecutive censuses. Most cities in Minnesota can’t say that.”

Some of the growth in population will be due to people who currently work in Willmar, but live elsewhere, according to the report. The current population of Willmar is 21,015 people, and nearly 18,500 people work in the city.

“(Willmar has) about half the population of the county, but 70% of the jobs (in the county),” Backman pointed out. “I might add, in the last census, we had 94% of the population growth in this county occurring in Willmar.”

He noted that about 12,600 people commute into Willmar to work and 25% of those people are commuting an hour one way.


In order to accommodate the projected need, Backman said there is a need to construct 193 housing units per year. “That’s a bit daunting, but I think we can get there. We’ve had some successes,” he said.

Currently, in Willmar, there are only 70 lots available for new construction that have sewer, water and road infrastructure built. There are other lots platted, but they do not currently have water and sewer or roads.

“That’s not a lot for a community our size — 70 lots. It’s recommended that new subdivisions come online in the next two to three years or so with at least 50 lots for single-family homes,” Backman said.

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There is also a recommendation to create new lots to accommodate up to 50 townhomes by 2024, as there are few lots that can accommodate townhomes and no recent subdivisions exist that are solely designed for townhomes, he noted.

It is recommended that one-level townhomes with attached two-car garages that will appeal to empty nesters be priced in the $250,000 to $300,000 range and entry-level homes be priced at $275,000 to $325,000, Backman said.

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Recently constructed homes sit along Shady Lane in Willmar on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. The housing report completed for the city recommends the construction of 193 housing units per year, including single-family homes, rental units and senior housing, to accommodate the need for housing for Willmar's growing population.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

There has been a flux of new market-rate rental developments in the last few years, and more are in the process of being developed. Those units should accommodate most of the needs for market-rate rental units.

Some of those projects include the Block 25 Lofts, a complex with 58 units that is currently under construction in downtown Willmar; Edgeview by Unique Opportunities on County Road 5 that is constructing an additional 144 units that should be open in the first half of 2023; and The Preserve on 24th that has a total of 108 units.

“One of the things that we have really been trying to key in on is market-rate units,” Backman said.


There is a need for units that are not income-restricted.

"So really, it’s only a small portion that we are looking for affordable rental property, based on the report,” he said.

The report recommended that an affordable rental property of 45 to 50 units be added to Willmar over the next five years.

Backman pointed out that the fastest-growing area of Willmar in the 2010s was the southeast quadrant.

“That’s probably not going to be the case for the 2030 census,” he said. “My prediction is that for the 2030 census, the fastest growing part of the city is going to be the north half of the city. … Do we have the right infrastructure? Are we looking at the right areas?”

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: or phone at 320-214-4339.
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