WALL, SD — With the growth in South Dakota over the past couple of years, the city of Wall is experiencing housing difficulties of its own.
Residents of Wall are watching closely as the expansion of Rapid City and Box Elder pushes eastward down Interstate 90.
Wall lost 8.7% of its population between 2010 and 2020, but the City is working to revitalize the economy to attract new businesses. Right now, there’s a problem. Wall Mayor Mary Williams said, “if you bring new businesses in, you have to have places for people to live.”
A draft of Wall’s recent housing study shows less than 1% vacancy.
“The affordable housing stock that we do have has a medium price point of $127,000, it’s just that we don’t have a lot of houses for sale at this point,” Williams said.
Wall has several development projects in the works. Hear from Mayor Mary Williams on just a few of them:
For a major tourist town like Wall, that problem includes sufficient housing for seasonal workers. Williams says companies like Wall Drug are continually in search of places to house their employees.
“We find that they too are the ones that are buying up the few houses we do have available for sale or bringing trailer houses and mobile homes to locate in our one trailer park to try and accommodate that housing,” Williams said.
A MAJOR DEVELOPMENT
Wall’s economic development is being spearheaded by the new industrial park located just past the airport and north of I-90.
The 85-acre park is the only certified site of its kind West River, according to city officials.
Mayor Williams says it’s a place where existing businesses in the city can move, since some are in inconvenient locations. They’re also working to bring in new businesses, and capitalize on Wall’s location with more value-added agriculture.
“We’ve been at the process of developing the industrial park for about five years,” said Kallie Carey, the director at of Wall’s Economic Development Corporation. “We are focusing on developing and expanding our current business around Wall, [and] also obtaining new businesses as well.”
Phase One should be completed by mid-October.
The project is funded in part by a $660,000 grant from the Pennington County Commission.
With only two apartment complexes in the whole town – and few houses for sale – the only other option is to commute. “We have over 450 people that commute to Wall to work,” Williams added.
One of those commuters is Travis Mason-Bushman. He started work in Wall in October 2020, and commutes 110 miles a day from Rapid City to Wall and back.
“I would really love to be a part of the local community,” Mason-Bushman said. “I think it’s a great place to live – it’s a great town – but it’s just really hard to find housing in this area on the eastern side of Pennington County.”
Mason-Bushman says for those like him who aren’t ready to build or buy, there are really no options. The study – and Mayor Williams – agree on that.
“We need market-rate rentals, and so we’re hoping that a developer might take that on and build an apartment that would accommodate some of our singles that are coming in our area to work,” Williams said.
The economic growth in Wall – and really anywhere experiencing major growth and expansion – is tied inseparably to the housing market.
Wall’s draft housing study offered more than 20 recommendations to the city to address housing shortfalls.
- Develop 14 to 16 general occupancy market rate rental units
- Promote the development/conversion of six to eight affordable market rate housing units
- Monitor the need for additional subsidized rental housing units
- Preserve the existing supply of subsidized housing
- Consider the development of 10 to 12 senior independent/light services units and monitor the need for assisted living units/beds
- Consider the development of a mixed-use commercial/housing project
- Utilize the Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Utilize and promote all programs that assist with home ownership
- Develop a purchase/rehabilitation program
- Lot availability and lot development
- Strategies to encourage residential lot sales and new home construction in Wall
- Promote twin home/town home development
- Coordinate with agencies/nonprofits that develop affordable housing
- Promote rental housing rehabilitation
- Promote owner-occupied housing rehabilitation efforts
- Develop a Town of Wall revitalization program
- Encourage employer involvement in housing
- Continue to acquire and demolish dilapidated structures
- Create a plan and a coordinated effort among housing agencies
- Continue to promote commercial rehabilitation and development
- Develop mobile home programs and policies
- Develop home ownership and new construction marketing programs
- Seasonal employee housing
You can read the full text of Wall’s draft housing study by clicking the link here.