Housing program geared toward younger residents

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 6, 2001

WELLS – A declining youthful population is a common problem for rural communities.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

WELLS – A declining youthful population is a common problem for rural communities. The City of Wells launched a unique program that offers affordable housing for young people with moderate incomes.

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The program, Home at Last in Wells, provides moderately priced housing with an interest-free $10,000 gap loan for an initial payment and a gift package from local businesses.

&uot;We want to give young people an opportunity to take advantage of living in our wonderful community,&uot; Wells Community Development Director Zoa Heckman said.

The program started at the beginning of this year, and five houses have been constructed so far.

The price for a 1,100 square-foot three-bedroom house ranges from $91,000 to $95,000. Two of them are still left.

Three local banks cooperate to finance the purchase. Though it depends on plans, an average payment for a mortgage is around $500.

Unlike other similar programs, there is no restriction for resale. &uot;Nobody knows what will happen. Once you made a contract, the property is yours. If you have to move out for some reason, you do it,&uot; Heckman said.

Although the prime target is the young generation, the only application criterion is an income guideline: Gross income has to be less than 80 percent of the Minnesota statewide median income adjusted for family size. For a single person it is $35,000.

The Community Development Office got a $260,000 grant from the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, with which the program was initiated. The office will reinvest the revenues from sales to build more houses. The sixth property will be constructed next spring, according to Heckman.

The incentive package includes a waiver for all permit fees from the city, a free 100-foot natural gas service line and many gift certificates from local retail and service shops.

Though the city is located halfway between Mankato and Albert Lea, the population has grown by 29 in last 10 years. Faribault County lost 756 people in the same period. The median age of Wells is 42.9 years old.

&uot;We have solid business development in the city. Affordable housing is the key to retain or attract young people,&uot; Heckman said.