Sep 10 2014 Fairfield Housing Survey Results

Fairfield Housing Survey Results


Table of Contents

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1

Survey Results…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Living in Fairfield………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

Commuting to Fairfield……………………………………………………………………………………… 2

Landlord Comments………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3

New Housing……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4

Housing Concerns…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 6

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 7





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




1$0 – $300


2$301 – $500


3$501 – $700


4$701 – $1,000


5$1,000 – $1,500










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?




1I have family elsewhere


2I already own a home elsewhere


3Lack of affordable housing in Fairfield







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 can not 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




1Yes, buying


2Yes, building







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.”




“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.”




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






2Single family homes




4Town homes







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




1In town


2Around the square


3Near the Jefferson County Health Center


4Near Maharishi University







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



#QuestionVery concernedSomewhat concernedSomewhat unconcernedUnconcernedTotal Responses
1Structural quality of housing in Fairfield1371264345351
2Visual appearance of housing in Fairfield1521214038351
3Affordability of housing in Fairfield1831083133355


“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”



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.


Aug 12 2014 Housing Survey Now Online

The Fairfield Economic Development Association and the City of Fairfield’s Housing Task Force ask people living or working in Fairfield to participate in a short online survey about housing needs in Fairfield, available at

Completing the anonymous survey is a way for Fairfield residents to participate in setting a direction for the future of housing in Fairfield. It will help members of the task force better understand what residents think are the housing needs and priorities. The results will be reviewed along with model policies and housing incentive strategies in order to develop policy recommendations for City Council.

The Fairfield Economic Development Association (FEDA) is working with the City’s Housing Task Force to identify ways to address the wide-range of housing challenges identified in the Housing Needs Assessment. The Housing Needs Assessment revealed that many local employers are finding it difficult to recruit and retain top-level talent due to inadequate quality housing options. Additionally, the assessment suggested that Fairfield residents are, on average, more cost-burdened by housing than the rest of the state. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), households spending more than 30% of their income on housing are considered “cost burdened.”

The Housing Task Force is identifying ways to ensure that the City of Fairfield offers affordable, resource intelligent, well-designed and well-built homes that blend into the small town, rural character of Fairfield. Task force members include Jessica Ledger-Kalen (City Council), Adam Plagge (FEDA), Tammy Dunbar (ERA Real Estate), Aaron Kness (Iowa State Bank), John Meyer (French-Reneker and Associates), John Oleson (TrafFix Devices, Inc.), Dan Sullivan (Cambridge Investment, Inc.), and Deb Cardin (Jefferson County Health Center).


New Fairfield Housing Needs Assessment

Fairfield’s ability to address issues surrounding affordable housing and homeownership is a key component in planning for the future of the city. A lack of affordable, quality housing in Fairfield may impede Fairfield’s growth and development potentials. This housing needs assessment addresses how homeownership, rental, elderly, and special needs housing availability relate to current and future economic and demographic trends, providing a benchmark of the city’s current housing environment. A combination of new construction and revitalization/rehabilitation efforts could foster stronger neighborhoods, improve the quality of life for current residents, and increase the attractiveness of Fairfield for potential residents.

See more…

Sep 07 2012 FHS graduates continue to out-pace state ACT averages

This article taken from the Fairfield Ledger August 30, 2012.

Iowa tied for the second-highest average American College Test composite score among states testing more than half of students in the Class of 2012.

Fairfield High School is excited to share the recently released report from ACT showing FHS’s composite scores were again well above Iowa’s state average composite scores for English, math, reading and science, said principal Aaron Becker.

Young Professionals Network Started in Fairfield

Young Professionals of Fairfield (YP Fairfield), a new peer-networking group for 21 – 39 year old working professionals meets monthly. YP Fairfield provides opportunities for social networking, volunteer opportunities, and professional development. Each month, the group will meet at a new venue on the third Thursday at 5:30pm.

The group had their first meeting in May at iPhone Life Magazine. 20 young professionals showed up to hear from young business owners David Averbach and Raphael Burnes. Averbach and Burnes toured the group through iPhone Life, shared the story of how they came to run the company, and gave a glimpse into the future of the magazine.

YP Fairfield will help individuals build their business and social network, gain exposure to what’s going on in the Fairfield area, and exchange ideas to help build a sustainable quality of life in and around Fairfield. The next meeting is on June 19th. Find the group on Facebook – Young Professionals of Fairfield.

For more information contact YP Coordinator Anna Bruen, or Darin Hayne,

Jun 14 2012 Young Professionals Network Started in Fairfield


Young Professionals of Fairfield (YP Fairfield), a new peer-networking group for 21 – 39 year old working professionals meets monthly. YP Fairfield provides opportunities for social networking, volunteer opportunities, and professional development. Each month, the group will meet at a new venue on the third Thursday at 5:30pm.

The group had their first meeting in May at iPhone Life Magazine. 20 young professionals showed up to hear from young business owners David Averbach and Raphael Burnes. Averbach and Burnes toured the group through iPhone Life, shared the story of how they came to run the company, and gave a glimpse into the future of the magazine.

YP Fairfield will help individuals build their business and social network, gain exposure to what’s going on in the Fairfield area, and exchange ideas to help build a sustainable quality of life in and around Fairfield. The next meeting is on June 19th. Find the group on Facebook – Young Professionals of Fairfield.

For more information contact YP Coordinator Anna Bruen, or Darin Hayne,

City of Fairfield: Energy project to save at least 10 percent annually

By LACEY JACOBS, Ledger staff writer | Mar 01, 2012

Solar tubes in the ceiling of the Fairfield City Hall council chambers are aglow on a sunny afternoon. The solar tubes are just one of several energy efficient upgrades made to eight city-owned buildings in the last year. An extensive project to improve energy efficiency at eight city-owned buildings is expected to pay for itself over the next 6.5 years.

Fairfield City Councilman Michael Halley reported Monday the $481,376 project that began in 2009 is now complete.

One-third of the project was funded by a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant through the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. Another $45,000 to $50,000 in rebates from Alliant Energy is anticipated, putting the cost to Fairfield at $271,000 to $276,000, which will be recouped in energy savings.

Many of the upgrades were as simple as retrofitting lamps and installing programmable thermostats. At the Fairfield Public Library alone, 836 light bulbs were changed and nine occupancy sensors were installed.

“As soon as the new lights were installed in the public area of our building, readers remarked about the difference. Everyone who walked into the building stopped and looked around, because the contrast was really noticeable,” library director Rebecca Huggins said.

Another 327 bulbs were replaced at Roosevelt Community Recreation Center, 219 at public works, 132 at waterworks and 150 at city hall. Occupancy sensors also were installed at city hall (13), the fire department (16) and the rec center (12).

At city hall, 57 lamp and ballast fixtures were replaced. At the waterworks, 24 thermostats were replaced, and at the rec center, two ultra high efficient water heaters were installed. The list of work goes on.

“Even though most of this stuff wasn’t very interesting, it’s the same stuff people can do to their houses or their offices. It was very much off-the-shelf technology — just doing stuff that anyone can do,” Halley said.

A couple of the improvements were a little more unique, including the six solar tubes installed in city hall’s roof to provide natural lighting. Halley also highlighted a solar fan installed in the roof of a wastewater pumping station.

“They just get broiling hot in the summer and any time wastewater people have to go out there it’s just unbearable, so we found these solar-powered fans. They sit on top, and when the sun shines it ventilates,” he said.

Much of the work was completed by local companies: Live Wire Electric, Zehr Electric and Jagen Plumbing and Heating.

Work got under way in January 2011 with installation of a new furnace at the waterworks. New lighting at the library was the next priority, and progress on the project continued through the fall.

Some of the plans changed along the way. Due to stipulations on federal funding, solar heating and a cover for the indoor municipal pool had to be eliminated. Halley said solar heating for the rec center showers was then considered, but ultimately found to have a poor payback.
Finding improvements with the shortest payback period was one goal of the project, Halley said.

“I feel really good about this project just in terms of the fiscal side of it — really making the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Halley said Alliant Energy actually anticipates greater annual savings than the conservative 10 percent he used to calculate the payback period.

He also sees all of the work done thus far as just the first step — the next may be renewable energy projects, such as a large scale wind project: one of the objectives inFairfield’s go-green strategic plan.

“The city’s done its work and now we want to encourage citizens and businesses to follow suit,” Halley also said.

Alliant Energy’s Hometown Rewards Program works with cities to “enhance energy efficiency across the entire community,” he said. Sustainability coordinator Scott Timm will spearhead the program, kicking off in April.

Halley said a key aspect will be education, including informing consumers of the Alliant Energy rebates available to them. He also hopes to see an “energy audit blitz” that would provide free energy audits to half the town happen.

The end reward for meeting program goals is roughly $18,000 toward a renewable energy project, which Halley said with likely be photovoltaic panels on the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center or city hall.