Housing study shows need for various types of properties across Kandiyohi County

A housing study created for the county and city Economic Development Commission showed a need for nearly 1,000 housing units to be constructed across Kandiyohi County by 2030.

House under construction
The 2023 Housing Study identified several housing needs across Kandiyohi County, in addition to the needs within the city of Willmar. Each of the 11 remaining cities have needs — including senior housing, owner-occupied and rentals.
Ron Adams / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — The 2023 Housing Market Analysis for Kandiyohi County identified a significant need for additional housing options across the county. While 48% of the county's population lives within Willmar, the surrounding rural areas and 11 cities are home to thousands of people and they all need places to live.

"Some of the zip codes have a fair number of people that reside in them," said Aaron Backman, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission .

The study was prepared by Viewpoint Consulting Group for the EDC. Funding was provided by the EDC, the Kandiyohi County Housing Redevelopment Authority , the city of Willmar and the West Central Realtors Association .

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.

Backman presented the study at the Feb. 21 Kandiyohi County Board meeting, focusing on data from other communities besides Willmar. He had presented the Willmar data at a previous Willmar City Council meeting .

"You know I like data," Backman said.


The study calls for an additional 950 housing units of different types across the county. This includes 390 owner-occupied, single-family homes and townhomes, 200 rentals and 385 senior housing units. These needs are spread out across the county's 11 cities — minus Willmar.

"That is a fair number," Backman said.

Countywide, the study forecasts that 225 to 250 new single-family homes will be needed. The vast majority would be move-up or executive housing priced over $350,000 in the rural areas or around the lakes. The rest would be entry-level homes starting around $250,000 in some of the smaller communities. In the past five years, most of the new homes in the county were built around New London and Spicer, and that is a trend that looks to continue.

Senior housing will play a major part in housing development over the next several years. Population and demographic trends seem to be pointing to a significant increase in the number of people 75 to 84 years old, the focus point for senior housing.

"We better be ready for that," Backman said. "That has implications for the future, for our future housing needs."

The last group of housing needs is rentals, such as apartments. This includes both market-rate and affordable options, which usually have income requirements for renters.

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The study breaks down the housing needs by community, giving each city its own housing recommendations.

A single-family / townhome subdivision(s) with more than 50 lots is recommended for New London, along with 12 to 16 single-level, market-rate rental townhomes. For the combined New London and Spicer market, a workforce (market-rate and affordable) apartment building or two with at least 85 units and a supportive senior housing with 90-plus units look to be needed by 2030.


"That sounds like a lot, but I think that is what is going to be needed in New London," Backman said.

For Atwater, the study recommends a 15-lot subdivision of single-family homes or townhomes, two to four market-rate rental townhomes and a workforce rental housing building with 10 to 12 units.

The study calls for only one or two new homes in Regal while recommending a house/townhome subdivision of 15-plus lots in Kandiyohi.

"I have distributed these reports to 45 different people, individuals and developers," Backman said. "One of those developers that I have been interacting with specialize in communities under 5,000. That is what I want."

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Kandiyohi County has several things going for it. Based on the 2020 census, the county showed positive growth and that looks to continue into 2030. The study projects the county population will increase from 43,732 in 2020 to 46,405 in 2023.

"This is a higher growth rate than what the state demographer and the U.S. Census are projecting," Backman said. "They've been wrong before."

The county also has a diverse economy and has seen significant investment both within Willmar and in the greater county area. With both the population and commercial growth, Backman said developers continue to be interested in the county.

"I don't think we would see housing developers investing millions of dollars into this community unless they thought they were going to get a return," Backman said.


Commissioner Steve Gardner was grateful the study didn't just focus on Willmar. While it is a regional center and the largest population pocket in Kandiyohi County, the rest of the county is important as well.

"I know the HRA board thought it was really important for us to have the data on all of our county," Gardner said.

The study's objective was to identify the housing needs for Kandiyohi County over the next several years. A lot of work still needs to be done to solve the challenges of high construction costs, rising interest rates and housing availability. The study could be used as a tool to help tackle those issues.

"That is a bigger task working with our partners," Backman said. "We want to identify the needs and go from there."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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