New residential construction breathes life into a community as people move in and become part of the social, religious, educational and commercial fabric.
St. John and Crown Point have experienced so much growth in new single-family home construction that a recent economic outlook and housing update ranked the two municipalities in the top 15 for new housing starts in the entire Chicago-area market.
They are the only Northwest Indiana municipalities to be listed in MetroStudy’s second quarter 2013 report. The remaining 13 communities are in the north, west and southwest suburbs.
St. John ranks fourth and Crown Point came in fifth in those listings, according to figures provided by the Multiple Listing Service.
The study of 2012 indicated St. John had 202 annual new home starts with 154 purchase closings. The inventory of new homes to be purchased was 130.
Crown Point had 198 annual new housing starts in that same period with 154 purchases and an inventory of 137 new homes to be purchased.
“Nearly all indications are that the local housing market is on track to continue in recovery mode,” according to the MetroStudy report. “Growth will likely be slow but steady. ... It is likely that the housing market (in the Chicagoland area) will see somewhere from 4,500 to 5,500 housing starts in 2013.”
St. John Town Manager Steve Kil called the rankings for the two Northwest Indiana communities “a great honor.”
“It speaks volumes for us. The Chicagoland area is one of the primary metropolitan areas in the entire world,” Kil said. “It speaks to the types of housing we have, the lower property taxes, the great schools and the type of governments we have.”
About 50 percent of St. John’s population increase comes from Illinois, he said.
“If you work in downtown Chicago, what does it matter if you live southeast or northwest of the city? About half the cost of living,” Kil said. “You have the same commute.”
Residential and commercial development “go hand in hand,” he said, adding that St. John has launched “a fairly aggressive marketing campaign to attract commercial development.”
Businesses look at demographics when choosing where to locate, Kil said.
“The more population increase we have, the more attractive we are,” he said. “St. John is poised to develop another 7,000 acres. We have plenty of room. We have already installed infrastructure for residential subdivisions.”
The growth in new housing is occurring all over St. John, Kil said. Among the existing subdivisions seeing new home construction are the Gates of St. John, Crossing Creek, Renaissance, Lake Hills, Saddle Creek and North Point.
In a recent letter to residents of Crown Point this month, Mayor David Uran said the city’s housing sector is now on par with numbers from before the recession.
“Over the last few years, on both the residential and commercial side, Crown Point continues to lead the area in new construction starts," he wrote to residents.
"We had just under 200 new homes built in 2012, so we’re getting back to our numbers,” he said.
“Our all-time high was 276 new homes built in 2005, so you see we’re doing very well. Last year we had over $80 million in new residential and commercial growth,” Uran said in the letter.
“We’re not only seeing new areas developed, areas of land that were once vacant, but we’re also seeing approvals for construction in blighted areas. These areas see blighted buildings that are being torn down and rebuilt, which will only continue to improve and protect home values in our community.”
Crown Point attracts new residents because of the city’s excellent quality of life and affordable living options, the mayor said.
“One of the reasons why people invest in and live here in Crown Point is we have the lowest municipal tax rate of any city in Northwest Indiana,” he said.
The city has invested in infrastructure such as roads, utilities and parks and partnered with nonprofit organizations. City officials also have been "frugal and responsible with the community's tax dollars," Uran's letter said.
The MetroStudy was sponsored by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, V3 Companies and LiftMaster Garage Door Openers.