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Searchers form a line in Wolf Creek to look for Jake Wilson an autistic 16-year-old that went missing last Saturday at they continue to look for more information Thursday, April 12, 2018, in LaPorte City , Iowa.


Searchers form a line Thursday in Wolf Creek to look for Jake Wilson, an autistic 16-year-old that went missing Saturday in LaPorte City.

Realtors see 'perfect storm' coming in Waterloo-Cedar Falls home sales


WATERLOO — The housing market in Waterloo-Cedar Falls could use a few more houses.

A shortage of listings is holding down a housing market waiting to bust out in the spring, local real estate officials said. But they see “a perfect storm” coming with new housing developments near schools in both cities.

First-quarter home sales in Waterloo were the highest in at least four years and have steadily increased each year, according to figures provided by Mary Shileny, executive officer of the Northeast Iowa Board of Realtors.

A total of 178 homes were sold in Waterloo in the first quarter of the year. That’s a slight increase from the 170 homes sold for the same period a year ago, but continued steady growth. Over four years, from the first quarter of 2015 to now, home sales increased 28 percent.

The sales might be even better with more inventory, Shileny said. The rise in sales occurred even though the inventory of homes available has decreased 10 percent over the same period.

Cedar Falls sees a more uneven picture, but again, Shileny said, that market also is constrained by a drop in inventory. A total of 78 homes were sold in Cedar Falls for the first quarter — down by 26 percent after hitting a four-year high of 106 for the first quarter of 2017.

“Lower than 2017, but higher than 2016 (63) and close to 2015 at 94. Looks like a bit of a roller coaster ride,” Shileny noted. “Inventory has dropped consistently for the last four years in Cedar Falls,” from 338 in 2015 to 267 now — a 21 percent decrease.

That may be about to change, particularly across the southern part of the metro area, in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

“Activity is brisk in the subdivisions surrounding the new school west of Hudson Road in Cedar Falls,” said Gale Bonsall of Oakridge Realtors, referring to the new Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School. “Permits and sales are occurring at a brisk pace, with some selling prior to being completed. Custom homes, those that are pre-sold prior to construction, as well as speculation homes, are quickly filling in the subdivision.”

In Waterloo, a proposed housing development around Orange Elementary School, Paradise Estates, would be the largest single home development in Waterloo in 30 years, Mayor Quentin Hart has said. It is still pending city approvals.

The activity near the Cedar Falls school could herald things to come in Waterloo near Orange.

“To have the stars align that there would be a supply of land that could be developed this close to a brand new school ... is not only rare, it has created a real boon for sales of these new homes,” Bonsall said of the development near Aldrich Elementary, constituting “a perfect storm for these developments, as well as the entire Cedar Valley real estate market.”

Overall activity is already picking up heading into spring, Shileny said.

“Historically, this is the season when home sales increase, and this year is showing to be no different than the past four years,” she said. “The cooler spring weather may be keeping sellers from putting their homes on the market, thus limiting the number of homes for buyers to purchase. Realtors report a hot market with back-to back-showings resulting in multiple offers on properties.

“It may not feel like spring outside but it’s heating up in the real estate market,” she said.


Iowa Republicans at odds over plan for tax reform, cuts


DES MOINES — Iowa Republicans offered conflicting proposals Thursday for how they intend to reform the state’s tax system and cut taxes, setting up a major legislative battle in the waning days of session.

GOP lawmakers with majorities in both chambers held nearly back-to-back legislative meetings at the state Capitol to advance their own versions of a tax plan that would need approval while lawmakers also finalize the next state budget.

Some provisions in the tax proposals are drastically different, indicating GOP lawmakers are far apart.

“We’re continuing to negotiate,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra, a Hull Republican who oversees the Senate’s tax-writing committee. “... The bottom line here, the Senate is going to stay here as long as it takes to make sure that Iowa taxpayers get what they deserve.”

Rep. Guy Vander Linden, an Oskaloosa Republican and Feenstra’s counterpart in the House, said he hasn’t seen the Senate’s latest tax plan, but he questioned how responsible it would be.

“We know — well, assuming that the estimates are correct — where we will end up,” he said. “But we don’t know yet where the Senate plan is yet, but we need to know that, and I think Iowans need to know that.”

The Republican factions are working off a tax bill introduced earlier this session by GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds. That plan would cut tax revenue by $1.7 billion over six years, in part by cutting personal income taxes but leaving alone corporate tax rates.

Both Republican sides say they’re changing the details around. Whatever they do, they’ll need to reach agreement to send a final bill to Reynolds.

House Republicans have offered a plan they say would cut $1.3 billion over five years. Senate GOP lawmakers offered a new plan Thursday they say cuts $2 billion in tax revenue over roughly the same period.

Senate Republicans provided the public a one-page summary Thursday with few details. House Republicans introduced their plan late Wednesday after holding a short-notice public hearing on the governor’s bill Monday evening.

Separately, Republican lawmakers have yet to release spending targets for the state budget that goes into effect in July. A budget panel has estimated Iowa is expected to collect roughly $7.5 billion in state revenue.

Democrats, who have no real legislative power this session, criticized the tax proposals floating around as unrealistic. The state has been forced to make midyear budget cuts for two years running, and Democrats questioned the timing as well as which taxpayers would benefit the most from proposed tax reforms. The Republican plans seek to collect new sales taxes from internet sales.

“I’m afraid that money that we’re giving them back in tax refunds is going to be negated by other taxes,” said Rep. John Forbes, an Urbandale Democrat.

Lawmakers will stop receiving reimbursement for daily expenses next Tuesday, a date that’s long been considered the unofficial target for adjournment. The uncertainty over taxes and the budget has lawmakers planning for a later finish.