Council approves application for more workforce housing

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Albert Lea came one step closer Monday night to having additional affordable workforce housing.

The Albert Lea City Council approved a resolution supporting an application to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development requesting $100,000 in funding to assist in the development of two six-plexes of workforce housing.

The housing would be west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and West Ninth Street on Wedgewood Road, adding in additional units across the street from newly constructed workforce housing.

Email newsletter signup

The proposed developer is TSB Construction Inc. of Janesville, who has already constructed 18 units in that area.

“This is a perfect fit,” said Albert Lea Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos. “It enables additional construction of market rate rental housing.”

No timeline was given on when the results of the application will be in, or how much the project will cost.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said the grant will save the developer money so re-investment will be possible in more units.

“The need’s out there,” Baker said.

The application must be sent to the state by Friday.

It is estimated Freeborn County will need an additional 80 to 100 new rental units in the next 10 years, of which at least half would be higher amenity rental housing that rents for over $1,000 per month, according to a housing study.

The Workforce Housing Development Program targets communities in Greater Minnesota where a shortage of housing makes it difficult for businesses to attract the workers they need.

The grant program offers financial assistance to build market-rate residential rental properties for workers. The city must contribute $1 for every $2 provided by the program. Program grants provide up to 25 percent of the total project costs of a rental housing development.

Eligibility requirements include:

• A vacancy rate of 5 percent or lower for at least the prior two years

• One or more businesses located in the project area, or within 25 miles of the area, that employ 20 full-time equivalent employees

• A statement from participating businesses that a lack of housing makes it difficult to recruit and hire workers

• The development must serve employees of the businesses in the project area.

Projects are selected on the basis of need, statewide economic impact, project financial plan and project readiness. Preference is given to areas with fewer than 18,000 people.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a state shared services fire grant

• Approved a resolution supporting a grant application to the Statewide Health Improvement Program for two City Hall projects.The grant would cover $1,000 for each project. Projects include changing two existing water fountains into bottle filling stations and renovating a room that will be designated space for breastfeeding.

• Approved calling a Jan. 25 public hearing regarding the Small Cities Development Program grant application.

• Named the Albert Lea Tribune as the city’s official newspaper for legal purposes.

• Established 2016 city appointments and designations.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

email author More by Sam