The number of new homes constructed in Geneseo has fluctuated in the past decade from a high of 43 homes in 2006 to a low of five homes in 2009.

The number of new homes constructed in Geneseo has fluctuated in the past decade from a high of 43 homes in 2006 to a low of five homes in 2009.

While other parts of the Western Illinois region attribute a decline in home building to the economy, in Geneseo, the reason is much more basic — a lack of property.

"We have people who'd like to build, but there isn't any place to go," said Betsy Brudos a realtor/broker with Mel Foster in Geneseo.

"We're running out of lots," added Rick Mills, building inspector for the City of Geneseo.

Increases in the number of home building permits issued by the city can vary depending upon subdivision development.

Newer subdivisions, such as Prairie View and Maple Bluff, along with additions to the established subdivisions including Richmond Hill and Country Manor, resulted in the upswing of building permits issued within the past decade.

However, as those sites filled, those looking to build a new home must look elsewhere.

"We find we're losing a lot of (potential home builders) to Bettendorf, Iowa," said Brudos. "The Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley school districts are very competitive with Geneseo, and people can have their choice of lots on the Iowa side."

While construction has occurred in subdivisions such as Weber Estates off Route 82 and those along Wolf Road, those properties aren't within city limits and don't count toward the city's building permit total.

Construction on several homes is underway in the new Double S subdivision located off Chestnut Street, including Geneseo High School's Building Trades home.

"We haven't had a Building Trades home in the past seven or eight years," said GHS principal Mike Haugse last spring. "Our goal is to try and prepare students to be college or career ready after high school, and when you talk to local home builders in our area, they're always looking for skilled workers."

Within the original city block layout, available lots are nearly non-existant.

"A lot of times, a home owner has purchased an empty lot next to their home to ensure it stays open. Even if a lot is empty, it doesn't mean it's available," said Mills.

As a rough estimate, Mills said he believes there are fewer than six lots available in the original Geneseo city layout.

"There are a few lots here and there in town, but no big place with a lot of available space," he noted.

Mel Foster purchased 120 acres north of Geneseo High School in hopes of developing it as a 240-lot "Maple Leaf Heights" subdivision.

Plans had been to start construction in 2009 but voters — not the economy — stalled the subdivision.

Illinois Department of Transportation officials required a turn lane to be constructed off Route 82 into the proposed subdivision.

The city was asked to issue a bond for up to $520,000 to fund the turn lane. At the time, Mel Foster Co., planned to repay the city $2,000 from every lot sold. The total repayment would have been $456,000 with the city responsible for paying the interest on the bond.

When handed the issue, local residents voted 1,237 to 669 against issuing the bond.

"Mel Foster still owns the property and there are still ongoing discussions as to what to do with the property," said Brudos. "However when the referendum failed, it kind of made it difficult to develop (the property.)"

Had the site become Maple Leaf Heights, as proposed, Brudos said she believes many more building permits would have been issued.

"We have people who want to build but can't. We see people leaving the community so they can find property. We also see older people who want to downsize and build a nice ranch house but can't because there aren't many lots available," she explained.

The "trickle down" effect hurts those looking to buy existing houses. "Usually we have a level supply and demand, but right now we just don't have the inventory. Normally this time of year we have upwards of 80 to 90 houses listed. Right now we have 37 listed," said Brudos.

When new homes can't be built, people look to improving their existing home, said Mills.

"We've issued a number of permits for home additions — people wanting to put on sunrooms or three-season rooms," he said. "We've also seen people buying existing homes and completely renovating them, which helps keep the character of the town."

Despite a scarcity of lots, Mills said he's encouraged by building trends thus far in 2013.

"It's looking pretty good this year. We've issued a number of commercial permits, which is a sign of positive things to come, and last year we issued seven new home permits, which is actually pretty high for a town our size," he explained.

In Atkinson and Annawan, the number of new home permits issued in the past decade have been minimal.

However, Atkinson trustees have tried to spark building interest with the development of West View Estates.

Created in 2006, the subdivision includes approximately 20 vacant lots, and at this time only four lots have been sold and three houses have been built.

In 2012, trustees signed a one-year contract with Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors to list the lots in West View Estates.

Trustees also included West View Estates in a recently created TIF district in an attempt to spur construction in the subdivision.

"It's time to move those lots," Atkinson mayor August Junior said in 2012. "Each home built in that subdivision will generate money toward our TIF Fund and we also receive a utility rebate of about $4,500 from AmerenIP for each house built, but that incentive will end in close to three years."

The mayor said homes built in the subdivision "go a long way in our attempt to revitalize our downtown. New homes bring money into the TIF Fund and we hope to be able to use some of that money to bring new businesses to our downtown."