Letter from the Mayor: December 2023
Letter from the Mayor: December 2023
November 30, 2023
Driving around the Springfield Metro area, you may have noticed a shift in the types of residential developments which are being constructed. Mixed use developments which have commercial spaces on the ground floor and residential on the upper floors, are more popular, as are 3-4 story apartment complexes with multiple buildings. We are still seeing a good amount of single-family development happening in the area, but the multi-family developments are much more noticeable and drawing the most feedback from citizens.
In Nixa, we have a plan to allow developers to build a variety of housing types to meet the needs of different socio-economic groups and lifestyles. This plan for development is referred to as a “comprehensive plan.” Originally adopted in 2003, Nixa’s current comprehensive plan puts a 20% cap on how much residential land, whether developed or undeveloped, could potentially be zoned for high-density multi-family (typically apartments).
Our current actual residential zoning breakdown is:
- 87.1% R-1 single-family
- 9.1% R-3 high-density multi-family
- 3.7% R-4 two-family (duplexes)
- 0.1% R-5 medium-density multi-family
As you can see, we are well below the 20% which the comprehensive plan set as the max for high-density multi-family. In addition to zoned property, the city’s planning department has mapped almost every residential structure in Nixa and can now break down the number of dwelling units which currently exist in Nixa, by structure type. Of the nearly 10,000 residential dwelling units in Nixa, 78% are R-1 single-family, 15% are R-3 high-density multi-family, and 7% are R-4 two-family.
Multi-family developments provide a number of benefits for the overall sustainability of the community. It provides an avenue for younger families or individuals, who might not be able to afford a $275K starter home, to get established into our community. These individuals fill important jobs in our community. Multi-family developments also meet a need for empty nesters looking to downsize and sell their single-family home. That home can then provide housing for a younger family with school-age children. The placement of some of multi-family developments has the potential to attract commercial developments nearby. This can create a micro community where people may not need to rely on vehicles for daily trips to get to work or to accomplish daily tasks.
Creating a walkable community where we are not reliant on a vehicle to achieve daily tasks is the dream for every city planner, just ask our Development Department staff. In reality, we also know that we are an automobile centric society, and many of us will still need to travel multiple miles per day away from our home for work or some other purpose, so designing developments around cars, garages, large parking lots, and roads will continue to be a priority. However, relying on the automobile creates the burden of acquiring a vehicle, license, insurance, routine maintenance, and gas… whereas walkable neighborhoods can be really fun. Just think of many top vacation destinations around the globe where you have visited or may hope to visit – generally these destinations feature walkability and the convenience of denser neighborhoods. It can be fun to leave your home or hotel to pop into a corner shop, walk past other attractions, stop into a sidewalk café, stroll through a park, all before walking back to where you started, without needing motorized personal transportation.
Would it be possible to add some walkable neighborhoods here in Nixa with a higher density than our usual single-family sub-division? Imagine an area like Chesterfield Village in south Springfield which is an example of this kind of thinking. The denser area becomes an attraction; a place with restaurants, shops, and professional offices, where people visit in cars from the surrounding single family neighborhoods, and where others can walk to these destinations from their apartments above or nearby.
If single-family development is the only residential growth we experience in Nixa, we will have a large maintenance bill come due in the future for all the new linear feet of infrastructure which is needed to create these new subdivisions. Adding roof tops for individuals who work elsewhere and spend money in other communities is not sustainable for a community which relies on sales tax revenue to pay for police and road maintenance.
According to a recent study published by The Ascent, over half of millennials (people born between 1980 and 1996) are now homeowners, but it took them longer to reach that threshold than previous generations. High entry-level home prices and now higher interest rates are contributing to a rising rate of millennials and gen-z who feel they will never be able to afford a single-family home. Add to this well-documented shifts in the average age for first marriages and child-bearing to later in life than previous generations, and you see many in these younger generations who feel their best option is renting, or owning homes which may not conform with the traditional single-family structure (such as loft apartments, duplexes, bungalow apartments, or other multi-family housing). In fact, a quarter of all millennials say they plan to always rent. Another study from the National Association of Realtors shows most (over 60%) first-time home buyers start as renters before they can afford to buy. If we want talented young people to be able to stay in Nixa, grow their family and career here, then retire here, we need greater diversity of housing options for each life-stage.
In order for us to better plan housing for the needs of our community, the City of Nixa is initiating a new comprehensive planning process, which we call Nixa 2045. The purpose of this process is to plan our growth for the next 20 years and beyond. Soon, you’ll be getting invitations from us to participate in this process, as we will need lots of community input to better understand our needs for housing, what our community preferences are, and how to balance competing priorities.
Mayor Jarad Giddens