This story is part of a series taking an in-depth look at a number of elements included in the city’s new Vision Derby 2040 comprehensive plan.
Growth is the prime objective of the new Vision Derby 2040 comprehensive plan. As such, housing is a major focus of that 20-year plan given the relationship between the two – since it’s hard to have one without the other.
“In terms of providing a variety of housing types and options, the more options that you provide the greater number of residents that you would attract to the community. So, if you’re interested in growing the population, one of the key aspects of doing that is providing a variety of housing options so that people who are looking for a certain housing type – whatever type that might be – they’d be able to find that in the community,” said City Planner Scott Knebel.
Within that goal of variety, affordable housing is a key element as well – as housing on the lower end tends to be a market that is lacking.
Having a lack of affordable housing can not only hinder population development, but commercial development as well, as Knebel noted a lack of lower- to moderate-income housing can also discourage businesses from bringing those types of jobs to a community.
Presenting the Vision Derby 2040 plan to the city council for final approval, the need for more lower-income housing was pointed out, but a market for more higher-income housing was also addressed.
Variety was one of the reasons for that – with the majority available all large, single family homes on individual lots – but Knebel also stated that increasing that market can increase the market for lower-income housing at the same time.
“Producing higher-end housing, people then move out of existing housing, which makes that more affordable housing available to others,” Knebel said.
Berkshire Hathaway realtor Tiffany Wells said she is not quite sure about those higher-income housing needs given what she’s seen on the market, but she seconded the importance of more lower-income housing given the inventory – or lack thereof – she is seeing.
“The lower end, it’s just always busy. You can always sell the low end houses in Derby and there’s just fewer and fewer because the inventory is so low,” Wells said. “Actually, the prices are getting driven up really high because the inventory is low, making it harder for some buyers to afford them.”
Creating more variety of housing is also something Wells was on board with, highlighting the different needs for first-time homebuyers as opposed to those retiring and downsizing.
Wells shared the sentiment that upsizing will help open up more affordable housing, especially since she has seen a pattern of those who live in Derby rebuying in the same market, but she was keen on expanding options in the moderate-income level to help in that regard.
“I know we have a lot of patio homes going in on the golf course, but they’re so high end,” Wells said. “What I constantly get asked for is a retirement area that is more moderately-based for people on a fixed income. I think that would do really well in Derby, some sort of housing where people can have their yard mowed but isn’t $300,000 to $500,000.”
Not only are the homes themselves important, but the neighborhoods they are a part of can be equally as critical in attracting new residents – which is why that is a goal in the housing-specific section of the comprehensive plan.
Amenities of the neighborhood are often made specifically for that neighborhood, but with future developments Knebel said there are plans for collaboration with the city to make some of those more public.
That is also where mixed-use developments play a factor, as those are planned to incorporate some of the same amenities as neighborhoods (parks, hiking/biking paths, etc.) and create a public bridge to those areas.
While zoning and development policies (as well as infrastructure instillation) need to change to allow that to happen, a “demonstration project” is lined out as part of Vision Derby 2040 to make that a reality. Commercial, residential and even town center gathering spaces could be included in mixed-use developments, which Knebel pointed to as another population recruitment tool and means towards the end of the comprehensive plan.
“Certainly, that’s the type of development that certain people are looking for when they’re looking for a housing type and certain businesses are looking for when they’re looking to locate their business as well,” Knebel said. “The more options that you offer, the more potential residents will be willing to consider your community because there are many different types of housing and each has its own unique set of markets.”