ROCK VALLEY, Iowa | Developers are paving the way for Rock Valley's growing population.
The town of 3,354 is expanding to the east, adding infrastructure for housing developments. The latest addition aims to address the lack of affordable housing, which had been identified by a real estate study conducted last year.
"It costs so much money to do development," said City Administrator Tom Van Maanen. "You want to make sure you're putting in what the community needs. The need was for more affordable priced lots."
Construction on a new street, 30th Avenue, is set to begin in May. The project is part of a housing development that will add 21 lots, targeted at moderate-income households with prices from $21,500 to $29,000. Four lots have been sold already, Van Maanen said.
An adjacent street, Rock Ridge Road, is slated for construction this summer, too. It will be an extension of 14th Street and add access to 11 acres for apartment complexes.
Development Director Jim Vander Velde credited a strong local economy with increasing employment opportunities for the community's population boom.
"Our industries are growing," he said. "That also gives you the challenge of providing adequate housing."
Rock Valley had a 24.1 percent population growth from 2000 to 2010. It was the second fastest-growing city in Northwest Iowa, following Sergeant Bluff.
"We continue to work on housing because we've been successful and continue to strive to provide that opportunity for people to live here," Vander Velde said.
An estimated 900 people commute to Rock Valley to work. Gary Blanchard, of Hinton, Iowa, is one of them. The concentration of manufacturing companies appealed to him.
He's been working in the industry for 35 years and said it's hard to find decent jobs in his field closer to home. So, the manufacturing engineer makes a 54-minute drive five days a week to Total Component Solutions, 2080 10th St.
His wife works at Northwest Area Education Agency as an educational interpreter for hearing impaired students in Sioux City. Moving to Rock Valley isn't in the cards for the couple.
"One of us would be commuting," he said. "The opportunities don't exist on the other end for my wife. I don't mind the drive."
Commuters who would like to live and work in Rock Valley have limited housing options. It's a seller's market.
"We don't have houses sitting empty," Van Maanen said. "If someone has an existing house for sale and it's under $120,000, it won't be on the market for more than three days."
The rise in population and demand for housing is reflected in the school system, too.
The Rock Valley school district reported a 21 percent increase in enrollment over the past five years, according to the Iowa Department of Education. It had the third-largest percentage increase of students among Iowa's 348 schools districts. Three of the other top-ranking schools are located around the greater Des Moines area.
In order to provide sufficient housing and school resources, the city, partnered with the Rock Valley Economic Development Corp. and the community school, plan to pay about $10,000 to have a population study completed.
Van Maanen expects that the new research, coupled with last year's housing study, will give the city a clear picture of future projects.
"Part of what we need that for is to determine the housing developments to keep up with the population demands," he said. "You never want to run out of available housing lots."