ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud City Council members approved a plan proposed by council member George Hontos to reduce fees for building a new home in St. Cloud.

The idea came about to kick-start home construction in St. Cloud after lagging home starts in recent years.

The $1,500 fee reduction is limited to the first 35 applicants and will sunset at the end of 2012. The proposal would have continued through October 2013, but an amendment proposed by council member Dave Masters ends the program at the end of this year.

Hontos says the program will do a couple of things. It would create some jobs, make existing lots more attractive and ultimately generate more tax revenue for the city than if the lots remained empty. If it doesn't work, he says the city won't be out much.

So far, St. Cloud is on pace for only 21 new housing starts in 2012. That's down from a whopping 309 in 2005.

The typical cost of all of the permits for a $160,000 home is between $4,500 and $4,800.

Hontos says there isn't much downside to trying the fee reduction. Documents provided to the council shows if the city finishes with 26 housing starts, it would decrease revenue by only $39,000.