Albert Lea’s tallest building

Published 1:51 pm Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

The largest housing complex owned and operated by the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the Shady Oaks high-rise is the tallest building in Albert Lea.

Tim Engstrom and Stacey Bahr/ Albert Lea Tribune

At 800 S. Fourth Ave. with eight full floors, Shady Oaks was constructed in 1972. It has 126 apartments.

Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jon Ford said when the building first opened, it was open for general occupancy, subject to income guidelines. However, in 2002 occupancy requirements changed to include only people age 50 and older or people who are disabled.

In August, the occupancy guidelines again changed, this time to go back to general occupancy. Ford said the apartments are still income-based, but the building can house some people over-income if needed.

The building provides quality units of affordable housing that might not otherwise be available, he said.

Rent is paid based upon a tenant’s adjusted monthly income, which averages to be $289 per month. Subsidy is provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Ford said the occupancy requirements changed in 2002 to change the marketing approach of the building, and they were changed back in 2010 for the same reasons.

The view straight down 90 feet as seen from the roof of Shady Oaks. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

He noted the building is still transitioning to the change.

“We are seeing a bit of a change in the chemistry of the building, but we have also seen a growth in demand for the units,” Ford said.

In the past five years, there have been improvements to modernize the building.

Ford said there has been a lot of landscaping to make the building more appealing, and also to solve erosion issues, new outbuildings were built in 2007 and 2008, three ground floor units were taken out of the rental mix and to be used for meeting space and a new air handling system was added in 2010.

The HRA has 185 units: 176 public housing units, one market rate unit and eight units of rural development. These units are in 42 dwelling units.

A view from the roof of Shady Oaks shows the neighborhood to the building’s northwest on Friday morning. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea Housing and Redevelompent Authority quick facts:

• The average annual household income for families receiving assistance through the HRA is $12,498
• 19 percent of the families receiving housing assistance also receive welfare assistance
• 96 percent of the families participating in the HRA housing programs are either employed at least part time or are elderly and/or disabled
• The average tenant share of rent for the HRA programs is $289 per month
• 25 percent of the families receiving housing assistance through the HRA are 62 1/2 or older
• 42 percent of the families receiving housing assistance are disabled
• 16 percent of the families include a war veteran as a household member
• 14 percent of the households are of a minority status
• 79 percent of the families receiving assistance stay in the program for less than five years
• 96 percent of the families receiving assistance stay in the program for less than 10 years
• 38 percent of the population in the housing program are 17 or younger
• More than 60 percent of Freeborn County’s population have household incomes at or below the requirements for many of the HRA housing programs
• The HRA serves more than 550 people in the county and nearly 400 households
— Information from Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jon Ford