Housing Resources

Fairfield Housing Survey Results

Introduction

The Fairfield Economic Development Association opened an online survey on August 5th, 2014 and closed it on September 3rd, 2014. During this four-week period, 414 people completed the survey, which is equivalent to 9.2% of Fairfield’s households. The survey respondents were primarily homeowners (70%), but also were renters (25%) or living with friends or family (3%). “Other” (2%) living situations included corporate housing and MUM provided housing. Additionally, 5% of the survey respondents self-identified as landlords.

Survey respondents spanned the complete range of mortgage/rental rates provided (See Table 1. Respondent Affordability). 54% fell within the $301 - $700 range.

Table 1. Respondent Affordability

#

Answer

 

Response

%

1

$0 - $300

 

 

31

9%

2

$301 - $500

 

 

93

27%

3

$501 - $700

 

 

94

27%

4

$701 - $1,000

 

 

63

18%

5

$1,000 - $1,500

 

 

48

14%

6

$1,500+

 

 

16

5%

 

Total

 

345

100%

Survey Results

Major Findings

  1. The majority of those surveyed were concerned or very concerned about the structural quality, visible appearance and affordability of housing in town.
  2. An estimated 300-500 people working in Fairfield are considering building a new home in the next 5 years.
  3. 54% of those surveyed define affordable housing payments as between $300-$700 while 37% are willing to pay $701 or more.
  4. Only 50% list single family home as their preferred housing type while 72% of homes in Fairfield are classified as such.

Living in Fairfield

34% of respondents live in the City of Fairfield, while 66% live outside the City. Of the 246 people living outside of the City, 71% cite “owning a home elsewhere” as the reason (See Table 2. “Why do you live outside of Fairfield?”).  Additional, write-in responses, included:

“I live in the country” or “I like the country” (7 responses)

“We looked in FF and couldn't find good quality "upper middle or lower upper" category housing.  Thought of building and builder/contractors in FF are questionable if they respond at all.”

“Waiting for zoning to allow a smaller than currently allowed.”

“We built on a lot just outside City limits.”

Table 2. Why do you live outside of Fairfield?

#

Answer

 

Response

1

I have family elsewhere

 

 

4

2

I already own a home elsewhere

 

 

95

3

Lack of affordable housing in Fairfield

 

 

15

4

Other

 

 

28

Commuting to Fairfield

Of the survey respondents, 41% commute to Fairfield for work (164 people). When asked “Why do you commute instead of living in Fairfield?” 119 of the commuters wrote in a response. These numbers are slightly misrepresentative, because as evidenced in the write in responses, some people were confused by the question. Responses included:

“I like to live in the country”
“We farm” or “Job in Fairfield is 2nd income. Live on farm.”

“I used to have an apartment here in Fairfield, and I paid more for rent monthly than I do currently for the mortgage on my house. Even with utilities and gas for my car, it is cheaper to live outside of Jefferson County than to live here.”

“I could never afford a house in Fairfield. Housing costs are high along with property taxes.”

“I live just outside the city limits in Jefferson County.  I have a 0.2mi commute to the city limits.  We purchased our house outside of the city limits because when we purchased in 2010, there were no houses in our price range or desired type of neighborhood.  There are several houses in Fairfield that "where" nice at one time, but are run-down.  In general, many of Fairfield's neighborhoods are run-down or have a peppering of well-kept and not well-kept homes.  Not an enticing situation for perspective buyers.”

“It is hard to find affordable housing. What affordable housing there is, it quickly gets rented. Most rentals in Fairfield are either too expensive or they are junk.   My husband and I rented a house on North C Street for $500 per month. I'm not sure how that house passed fire inspection with the older appliances and wiring it had. Also, our heating bill was outrageous because the windows were very old and there were leaks in every single one. We had to put plastic on them. It was not worth $500/month.   We rented another place above Davis & Palmer Real Estate on the square about 4 years ago. That place also miraculously passed a fire inspection. Upon signing the lease, we also had to sign a form saying we would not seek legal action if we happened to consume any paint from the walls as they "may contain lead".  I understand a lot of units are older, but sometimes updates are necessary - especially for renters with children.   That is why we commute to Fairfield instead of living IN Fairfield. We are renting a cozy house for $400 in Pleasant Plain. It is worth the rent money. Anything like it in Fairfield would, I am assuming, cost $600 + to rent.”

“Noise pollution, light pollution, old houses in need of repairs and inadequate insulation. Also concerned about taxes in f.f. and high cost of electric and services.”

“Property values in Fairfield seem to be artificially inflated compared to surrounding areas.”

“COL in Fairfield is too expensive compared to salary they offer”

“I have been trying to relocate to Fairfield but the housing market is HORRIBLE!”

Landlord Comments

When landlords were asked, “What are the biggest challenges you face with renting and maintaining your property(s)?” write-in responses included the following”

“My Husband is a contractor and we would like to build affordable spec. homes and/or condos but the lot prices make it hard to build affordable first-time home owner properties. We only have two properties in Fairfield that we rent and are working on a duplex but what I hear from prospective tenants is that there just isn't much out there, and what there is available is substandard.”

“Costs of renovating to make rentable. I would like to know exactly what people want out of a rental in terms of quality, appliances, size and Price.”

“Higher taxes when improving my home or rental, discourages improvement and upgrading appearance of house in neighborhood”

“Properties require endless maintenance. I like to have well-kept rentals. I have a good reputation.  Property taxes and insurance increase yearly and I cannot raise the rents at the pace of the expenses.”

“Rent rates have been traditionally very low when compared to the costs of renovation or new construction.  This is shifting some but remains a challenge due to the high cost of building.  The demand for renting units has been strong and therefore has not been a challenge if the space is clean and charming plus priced competitively.”

“As a renter: uncooperative landlords, meaning you have to wait and wait and maybe you will get something fixed, but never everything that would bring the home up to a decent standard.    As a property manager: the advanced state of disrepair so that it is difficult to keep up with even the most urgent problems, in part because tenants don't pay their rent, don't honor leases, destroy property, etc.”

New Housing

36% of respondents are considering either buying or building a home within the next five years (see Table 3. Buying or Building).

Table 3. Buying or Building

#

Answer

 

Response

%

1

Yes, buying

 

 

92

25%

2

Yes, building

 

 

41

11%

3

No

 

 

234

64%

 

Total

 

367

100%

Respondents were also asked if within the past 5 years they had considered building, and if yes, what barriers they encountered. Barriers cited include:

“There are very few desirable lots available in town and most of those that are available are dramatically overpriced...$25,000 to $40,000 is crazy.”

“LAND IN TOWN IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND AND FIXER-UPPER HOUSES NO LONGER AVAILABLE - EITHER BOUGHT UP OR TOO RUN DOWN TO FIX UP OR PRICED WAY TOO HIGH TO FIX UP. COST OF NEW BUILDING IS HIGH. I'D LIKE TO SEE SMALL HOUSE SIZES APPROVED AS WELL.”

“We considered it before buying, but determined the cost was more efficient to buy if we were only sure we'd be there for 3-5 years and not building our dream home.”

“Finding quality contractors.  It appears many of the homes going up are manufactured/modular.”

“At one time we did consider building, as we were struggling to find suitable housing from what was available for sale.  There are very few available building lots in Fairfield on which to build a moderately-priced new home (in the $250-$300k range).  Again, a new development is sorely needed in our community.”

“We are looking to build a nice new house now, nothing huge, but estimates are coming in prohibitively expensive per square foot.  Over 50% more than like sized houses in larger cities where we've lived.  I don't know if there is a builder shortage or materials are expensive to transport to SE Iowa, or what, but all the general contractors seem to have us wanna-be home builders over a barrel.  It's causing us to reconsider building a home here or skimp on quality to make it affordable.  We'd love to build a nice 2200 square foot house that isn't going to cost us over $350k!”

“We planned on building a house, but part of the decision not to build was based on lack of responsiveness of contractors in the area.  I was given 3 names by the local lumber yard.  After reaching out to all 3 several times, no one got back to me.”

“THERE ARE SEVERAL AREAS OF TOWN WHICH NEED ALLEYS CLOSED ETC. TO MAKE LOTS ON OLDER AREAS AVAILABLE TO BUILD ON. I THINK THAT IS WHY WE SEE SO MANY PEOPLE MOVING OUT OF THE MAIN PART OF TOWN.”

50% of respondents would like to see more single family homes (see Table 4. Preferred Housing Types). 45 respondents wrote-in “other” types of housing including “tiny homes,” “small homes,” “granny flats,” “smaller homes” (13 responses), as well as, “Affordable” and “A mix of all of the above.”

Table 4. Preferred Housing Types

#

Answer

 

Response

%

1

Apartments

 

 

49

14%

2

Single family homes

 

 

175

50%

3

Duplexes

 

 

24

7%

4

Town homes

 

 

46

13%

5

Other

 

 

53

15%

 

Total

 

347

100%

Regarding the location of new housing, 46% would like to see new housing in town, while 29% would like to see new housing near the Jefferson County Health Center (see Table 5. “Location of New Housing). 39 write-in responses included:

 “Near Cambridge” (4 responses)

“No preference” (2 responses)

Table 5. Location of New Housing

#

Answer

 

Response

%

1

In town

 

 

159

46%

2

Around the square

 

 

21

6%

3

Near the Jefferson County Health Center

 

 

101

29%

4

Near Maharishi University

 

 

18

5%

5

Other

 

 

46

13%

 

Total

 

345

100%

Housing Concerns

Table 6, “Housing Concerns” shows respondents priorities regarding housing concerns. The highest number of respondents were “very concerned” with affordability of housing, but were “very” or “somewhat” concerned with the visual appearance of housing. 61 people wrote in responses to what they are concerned about regarding housing in Fairfield.  While answers ranged from community service preferences (where the new pool should be built) to gardening concerns (application of pesticides), five responses were regarding high property taxes; additional concerns are quoted below.

Table 6. Housing Concerns

#

Question

Very concerned

Somewhat concerned

Somewhat unconcerned

Unconcerned

Total Responses

1

Structural quality of housing in Fairfield

137

126

43

45

351

2

Visual appearance of housing in Fairfield

152

121

40

38

351

3

Affordability of housing in Fairfield

183

108

31

33

355

4

Other

55

6

4

20

85

“Availability of housing between $90k and $150k”

“Condition of rental units, many of which are crummy”

“Lack of real apartments”

“Rental inspections should be replaced with a "Certified" designation to make the program less confrontational. Landlords could then advertise their certification as a plus.”

“Not enough modern homes”

Conclusion

The Fairfield Housing Survey reflects the housing needs assessment in that it shows a need for both new development and programs to address the current housing stock. Written in comments combined with the “living in Fairfield” and “commuting to Fairfield” sections of the survey results highlight the fact that many people could not find adequately affordable and quality homes in Fairfield. Adequate affordability seems to be a rental or mortgage payment of $300 - $700. Adequate quality has to do with energy efficiency/utilities, up-to-date housing basics such as solid roofing and foundation and regular maintenance. This re-enforces the results in the housing concerns section, which indicates that residents are most concerned by affordability and visual appeal of houses. There is a strong call for up-to-date modern housing as well as for bringing the existing housing stock up to par.

back to top