Housing Heros Story Series 1 of 4 | Belle Fourche
Belle Fourche’s story begins in 2013 after a housing study done by Community Partners Research out of Faribault, Minnesota revealed a dire lack of adequate housing. The results were worse than expected, and the Economic Development Corporation decided to step in to see what they could do to help.
“The first thing we did was speak to the high school,” says Hollie Stalder, Director of Economic Development in Belle Fourche. “Each year, the technical students build a home with the help of trained professionals. Those homes were being sold and often times, moved out of town. We wanted to help our housing situation by keeping these well-built home in the community.”
The next step was finding lots for the homes.
They found a few empty lots in town that worked, but the last three properties were acquired through demolition of older dilapidated homes. By working through Neighborworks Dakota Home Resources, they were able to identify homes beyond rehab or repair. They looked for properties that would allow for easy moving and placement of a new student-built home. Then, they approached the homeowners about selling the property to the Economic Development Corporation.
“We met some resistance from people who had sentimental attachments to these properties and didn’t want to see the houses torn town,” she says. “We explained that by revitalizing the property with a new home, another family would be able to grow up in that place and it would continue to live on. People were more receptive to that idea.”
Once the homeowners agreed to sell the property, it was all-hands on deck.
“Our Economic Development board members volunteered to do the demolitions for free. We have a few on our board who donated equipment and even one board member who paid his own crew to operate the machinery. We cleared out the houses and any sheds, took care of overgrown weeds and landscaping and took loads to the dump,” she says.
Prior to the demolitions, the Belle Fourche fire department had the opportunity to hold fire safety trainings in the old dilapidated buildings.
Once the property was cleared, the economic development corporation paid to have the foundation put in and for the costs of moving the home. They also hired out people to do the utility connections, flooring, some plumbing and even a little landscaping.
Next, they put the house on the market. Proceeds from each sale were used for the next home.
“The homes are three bedroom, two bathroom and two of the three have basements,” explains Hollie. “Two of them also have two-car garages. Our desire is to keep the houses affordable and marketable. We are just getting ready to put our third house on the market. It’s been a great success so far.”