Sen. Sparks sponsors workforce housing bill

Published 9:07 am Thursday, March 26, 2015

Local legislators are leading the charge to bring workforce housing issues to light.

Sen. Dan Sparks is one of several authors behind a bill to create incentives for companies to invest in housing opportunities for workers across Minnesota.

“We know it’s an important need for Minnesotans,” Sparks said earlier this month.

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The bill, which would affect Greater Minnesota more than the metro area, would give grants and tax incentives for workforce housing opportunities so younger professionals could find better housing options in places like Austin.

“We haven’t really seen a market-rate housing project since bell-bottoms were hot,” City Administrator Craig Clark said.

Clark testified Monday at the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Sparks’ bill and what it would mean to Austin. For the past few years, city officials have focused on efforts to improve Austin’s housing stock as the city’s population grows.

A 2013 study found more than 200 new housing units were necessarily to keep up with Austin’s population growth. The city’s need for more housing, combined with an increase in job vacancies across Greater Minnesota, means city and state officials are seeking ways to get better housing options.

“It’s a critical need as far as business growth is concerned,” Clark said.

The bill would create a state office for workforce housing, as well as grants and tax credits for workforce housing projects. The bill was forwarded last week to the Senate’s Finance Committee. A similar bill awaits action in the state House of Representatives.