Lack of middle-income housing lost opportunity
De Soto has had a great deal of success in attracting jobs. As noted in The Explorer last week, the number of jobs created in the past two decades by just the recruitment of the city's largest industries — Huhtamaki Americas, Intervet, EngineeredAir, Oncimmune and Mr. Goodcents accounted for 490 jobs. Add such things as growing footprint of USD 232, Performance Glass, Rehrig Pacific, Hillside Village and many smaller businesses and its safe to assume more than 1,000 jobs have been created in the community since 1990.
But the the numbers the De Soto Chamber of Commerce collected also reveals that far too many of those filling the newly created jobs live outside of De Soto. For example, only 30 of the 420 working at Huhtamaki live in the community.
This is a missed opportunity and it could well have tipped the balance between a grocery store succeeding or failing in De Soto. It is always assumed too many De Soto residents shop elsewhere because they work elsewhere, but here are potential customers who could live and work in the community but for a lack of affordable and suitable housing.
Four years ago, the city received a housing assessment stating the community had adequate low- and high-income housing but was lacking middle-income housing. Although a few triplexes have been built since, that situation remains essentially the same.
With the lull in housing construction, it could be the proper time for the city to consider how the shortage could be addressed. There are a few suggestions on the table. The downtown revitalization plan envisions additional housing downtown, and the city has taken steps — such as foregoing excise tax on new residential homes in the historic core — to encourage infill development.
What is lacking, perhaps, is a comprehensive effort to define how and where middle-income housing, which inevitably means the unpopular greater density, could be realistically encouraged. It is true the west area land-use plan defines such sites, but the lack of essential infrastructure makes development problematic.
Discussion now might prepare De Soto to take advantage of future opportunities.