School, community combine to fill housing needs in Lennox

This piece is presented by the Lincoln County Economic Development Association.

It’s probably safe to say there are more people who want to live in Lennox than there are homes to accommodate them.

The Lincoln County community, like many in the Sioux Falls area, has seen an influx of interest from residents looking for the feel of a smaller town close to the growing city.

Empty lots are being replaced by new homes, and houses are selling before they’re built.

“Houses for sale usually sell within days of listing,” city administrator Amanda Anglin said. “We frequently receive calls for people looking to rent or looking for lots to build on. Lennox needs more lots for single-family housing development.”

At the same time, the construction industry is struggling to attract enough workers to keep up with demand across the metro area.

And that makes what’s happening in Lennox such a great story.

It starts with Rob Huber, president of the Lennox Area Development Corporation, and a licensed contractor.

He knew the community needed more housing, and his mind went to Lennox High School, where students built a house each year in construction class.

“I said, ‘Let’s build a house on-site,’ ” he said. “I’ll volunteer to use subcontractors, and we try to use everybody local as much as we can.”

A new owner just moved into the house built by last year’s class.

“The first person who looked at the house with siding on it bought it right away,” Huber said. “It’s pretty neat.”

It’s pretty neat for the students working on the project, too, said Paul Kruse, who teaches the building construction class.

“It goes over really well,” he said. “It’s a high-demand class. There’s a lot of times we turn away juniors if there are a lot of seniors.”

This year, the project got bigger.

The Lennox Area Development Corporation owns three lots near the school, so the students are tackling twin homes to fill them. This year’s class is building a set of them.

“We pretty much do the framing and shingling and get it ready for the electrician,” Kruse said. “I have two to three weeks of classroom work, and we do OSHA training and hit the jobsite after that.”

Working in 90-minute blocks, the students are building two 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom homes that include a basement and three-stall garage.

“It would sell for $350,000 to $400,000 in Sioux Falls, and these are $240,000 to $250,000,” Huber said. “And it’s fun. I watch it, and Paul knows how to build a house. At the end of the day, it’s done right.”

The homes already are drawing interested buyers, he said. The goal is to have them mostly done by the end of the school year.

“And we’ve got two more lots, so those kids will have them (in future years),” Huber said. “We know how to build a house that’s going to sell. We get the framing done for free, I do all the coordination, and we also pour the concrete. I pretty much just treat it like one of my own houses, but I work with the school on a daily basis.”

The real-life learning experience has caused several of the students to pursue construction careers, Kruse said.

“And the biggest comment I get from students is they’re able to maybe build their own shed or do minor repairs in their own house when they get older or their parents’ house,” he said.

The partnership has been well-received within the community, Anglin said.

“I feel this is a unique idea, resulting in a great opportunity for Lennox,” she said. “This partnership provides real-life experience for the kids while aiding in keeping the cost down, providing more affordable housing.”

In the spirit of partnership, the development group also shared the profits of the first jointly built home. It donated $5,000 to the school for tools, and the plan is to continue to use a portion of money earned to add resources for the program.

The students also are helping build a city concession stand and a garage for a resident in need.

“The donation was a blessing,” Kruse said. “And we don’t ask for anything. This is my classroom. The development corporation supplies the materials and basically supplies the classroom for me.”

School, community combine to fill housing needs in Lennox

Recognizing the need for more housing in Lennox, here’s what happened when students and community leaders came together.

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