Forest City Hopes New Housing Helps Attract, Retain Workers

Jul 24, 2017

The first renters are now moving into Forest City’s first market-rate housing to be constructed in the North Iowa community in more than 25 years. The project helps ease the housing shortage squeezing workers away from jobs in many communities such as Forest City.

The Westown Place three-story building results from the community’s economic development organization taking over when private developers passed over the community’s request for proposals to build.

“We have jobs coming out our ears,” said Beth Belyeu, Executive Director of Forest City Economic Development. “We need more people and places for them to live.”

Belyeu’s organization, using the first loan of its kind under a new Iowa Finance Authority program, partnered with investors to construct the first of two planned apartment buildings. The state agency loaned the City of Forest City $751,000 to finance 36 of the new apartments. Forest City then loaned the money to Belyeu’s development group and investor partners.

The apartments are designed and priced for people Belyeu describes as “middle management executives.”  Rents range from $750 monthly for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,150 for a three bedroom, two bath unit. The units all have appliances including a dishwasher, and an attached, heated garage for an extra $50.

In building middle management executive housing, Forest City hopes to attract and retain employees at Winnebago Industries and the communities’ other major employers.  In recent years, Winnebago moved its corporate headquarters from Forest City, where the company was founded in the 1960’s, to Minneapolis. Last year, Winnebago, nearly perpetually searching for production workers in Forest City, opened a plant in Oregon.