Three area Chambers of Commerce and a number of nonprofits labor behind the scenes to promote and build for the lake's future. One more backstage player now poised to take the stage on behalf of buyers and builders is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Camden, Laclede, Miller, and Morgan counties.

Three area Chambers of Commerce and a number of nonprofits labor behind the scenes to promote and build for the lake’s future. One more backstage player now poised to take the stage on behalf of buyers and builders is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) for Camden, Laclede, Miller, and Morgan counties. Known as the Lake Area CDC, it will, in time, open doors to funds for housing that is affordable—not only for buyers, but also for developers and builders.

Ed Thomas with Camden County Developmental Disabilities Resources (CCDDR) recognized the value of a CDC for housing opportunities at the lake. He offered his experience for an ongoing project undertaken by Lake of the Ozarks Regional Economic Development Council (LOREDC) representing Camden, Miller, and Morgan counties. That project included a detailed analysis of the lake’s housing needs and local demographic trends.

LOREDC learned one factor affecting the region’s future is housing for people in middle and lower-income brackets. Modestly priced and moderately sized starter homes including apartments and duplexes are insufficient to meet needs, a fact Thomas knew well as a result of his work with developmentally disabled adults unable to find “safe and sanitary units” of universal design and suitable for independent living at an affordable price. Thomas offered to help LOREDC create more housing options for all with a CDC.

CDCs incentivize developers and homeowners by providing funds for start-up costs, including infrastructure for undeveloped land and down payments for homeowners of modest means. Thomas identified for LOREDC 13 separate sources for potential funding.

A local CDC may also incentivize the use of universal design. Though the additional costs for universal design are modest, the value to communities is high as features such as wider doorways, paddle-door openers, and outlets at higher levels reduce population migrations among the lake’s aging population. Universal design allows owners to age in place rather than sell and move closer to family.

The LOREDC housing study affirmed links between demographics, workforce housing, and business growth. For example, Peter Economy reported for Inc. a fact echoed in the LOREDC housing study. Workers between the ages of 20 and 35 will be 75% of the global workforce by 2025. In the lake region, that target age group is migrating away from the lake at rates higher than the state and the nation. In other words, the lake is losing more than its share of the millennial workforce. One identifiable reason for that loss is housing that’s affordable.

After the economic collapse in 2008, many developers and contractors left the area or built new careers. Eleven years later, the economy is still steadily recovering, but major cash outlays for housing infrastructure and slimmer profit margins continue to have a chilling effect. Local governments report few resources to counteract that effect, but a CDC can reduce infrastructure costs and help buyers purchase the builders’ products by opening doors to funding sources.

Another advantage of a CDC is its local, community-based focus. The National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) notes a CDC’s non-profit status opens doors to private, federal, philanthropic, and community dollars. It is also not a government entity so its mission can be tailored to meet community needs.

Currently, the Lake Area CDC is but a fledgling, months away from soaring. In the next 30 days, Thomas will be setting a meeting to consider a Board of Directors with at least 9 members. Three of these will be from the targeted income constituency while other members may represent the lake’s driving force—tourism—as well as manufacturing, retail, real estate, LOREDC, and governance. Thomas himself will continue as an advisor until the CDC takes flight as one more initiative laboring behind the scenes to insure a great future at the lake.