Twenty-three years ago, RDG Planning and Design completed the last comprehensive housing needs assessment study for Story County.

Now, they will be tasked with providing an up-to-date housing analysis and recommendations for county towns spanning from ever-expanding Nevada to smaller communities, such as McCallsburg.

On Tuesday, the Story County Board of Supervisors unanimously awarded a contract to the Des Moines-based firm to engineer the Story County Housing Study and Needs Assessment.

The board has catered the study to identify existing and future housing stock throughout Story County (with the exception of Ames) and the barriers that lie within in the county for housing.

While the details on the contract still need to be finalized, according to RDG’s Principal-in-Charge Amy Haase, the firm proposed a budget of about $51,800.

“The overriding theme in our housing studies, we’ve found, is a search for affordable and attainable housing,” Haase said to the Tribune on Wednesday. “Compared to when we did this study 20 or so years ago, we need to find housing stock to accommodate these growing, expanding communities and also develop a housing market for smaller towns.”

The other two bidders for the study was Lincoln, Nebraska-based firm Hanna: Keelan Associates, P.C. who proposed $43,000. and Portland, Oregon-based Western Economic Services (WES) who proposed a budget of $57,000.

The study will address eight topics, including population projection through 2040, housing market analysis, housing demand and vacancy rates, existing housing conditions, economic profiles of each area, housing gap analysis, existing housing barriers and recommendations for the unincorporated areas of the county.

In its proposal, RDG estimated a February to September timeline for completion of the study.

Haase said she hopes the study can help the county leverage itself for more state and federal funding to address housing, help develop an existing housing market for developers in the small-population towns, and incentivize local partnerships and funding opportunities.

“The most beneficial aspect of this study will help these communities leverage for additional state funding,” said Haase. “These programs are highly-competitive, as is the case, an up-to-date study with housing statistics and needs can help them compete for those funds.”

RDG has previously conducted a housing needs assessment for Story City, and are the current lead consultants in the city of Ames’ new comprehensive plan Ames Plan 2040.

“I think I lean toward RDG because of Story City (and) because of the work they are doing in Ames,” said board chair Linda Murken. “There should be some connection between the Ames Plan 2040 and what is going on for housing in the rest of the county.”

Haase touted the benefit of RDG’s work with the Ames Plan 2040 as providing additional knowledge about the county, and a seamless transition of Ames-based statistics to the housing study.

“It’s a benefit to us to have consultants working in Ames so that we get to build that knowledge base on what’s happening in all the communities of Story County,” said Haase. “Ultimately, we want to be on the ground and talk to all of our communities to identify the needs of each different community.”

Supervisor Lauris Olson said RDG’s comprehensive housing needs study for Mitchell County, that has a population of 15,072, could fit the needs of the county.

“I’ve actually read (the study),” said Olson. “I have read it, and it certainly meets our needs.”