Task force suggests changes to address housing shortage

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The city of Albert Lea is working toward implementing several of the recommendations made earlier this week by a state housing task force.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said on Tuesday the city’s housing needs are substantial. 

“We basically need all types of housing — some more than (others) — but we’ve got a lot of demand for housing in our community right now,” he said.

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Gov. Mark Dayton and members of the Governor’s Task Force on Housing released a report they hope will improve access to quality, affordable housing for Minnesotans.

The recommendations include:

Having a stronger public commitment for affordable homes for more Minnesotans

Preserving homes

Building 300,000 new homes by 2030

Increasing home stability by assisting twice as many people who are at risk of losing their homes because of rent increases, evictions and high costs

Building stronger links between homes and needed services

Removing housing barriers for households of color

Launching a public-private partnership to forecast demand, set goals and measure progress in building, preserving and attracting investment in housing in Minnesota

Cracking down on excessive evictions and poor condition of rental units

Creating dedicated, permanent funding sources for affordable homes in addition to current funding sources

Making Minnesota a national leader in advancing construction innovation and technology

Increasing access to homeownership resources for income-ready households looking to buy their first home

Adams said the task force’s discussions on rehabilitating and preserving housing apply to Albert Lea.

“We need to emphasize and increase our efforts here in the community with that area, too,” he said.

Adams noted the Housing Redevelopment Authority has conducted work through the Small Cities Development Grant program in downtown Albert Lea, and he hopes the city continues to partner with the HRA and have a stronger rehab program.

The Albert Lea City Council adopted a new tax abatement program that eliminates city property taxes for five years on single-family homes, duplexes and multi-family housing with less than four units built in the next three years.

“We’ve been getting involved with different components of the housing sector and then using agencies like the HRA, where they’re suited for more of the rehab programs,” Adams said.

He said the city has been “aggressive” in removing substandard structures and is committed to working with private and public sectors to reduce assessments to increase the city’s tax base.

Adams said he has heard from employers and the public that there are racial disparities in local housing access.

“There are things we need to do there as well, too,” he said. “As we continue to grow our population, we know that we are going to be encouraging and inviting — or needing — more ethnic communities to be in our community to grow our workforce, so we have to ensure that all areas of our community — including housing — are going to be representative of them living here.”

Adams noted the city has advocated for workforce housing at the Capitol, and he supports a permanent, dedicated funding source for such housing, which was included in the task force’s recommendations.

The city will have a final housing study complete in approximately one month.

In a press release, Dayton applauded the task force for their work.

“More than 500,000 Minnesotans are struggling to afford quality housing,” he said. “The strength of our communities and the success of our people depend on creating solutions to the many housing challenges facing Minnesota families. I am grateful to the members of this task force for their collaboration and hard work. The actions they have recommended offer a roadmap for connecting all Minnesotans to the safe, quality, affordable homes we need for a better Minnesota.”

According to the Governor’s Office, a reliable supply of affordable housing “has historically been a competitive advantage for Minnesota — ensuring that growing businesses had access to the workers they need.”

The release states Dayton and the Legislature have invested more than $5 billion in affordable housing projects since 2011 across the state, assisting nearly 325,000 low- and moderate-income households find quality, affordable housing.

Despite that, the Governor’s Office said increasing housing costs have priced families out of housing near quality educational and employment opportunities, leading to the creation of the task force.

“With appropriate public and private investment in housing, Minnesota can maintain the competitive advantage we’ve had in the past because people can afford to live and work here,” said Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal in the release.

Acooa Ellis, senior vice president of Community Impact Greater Twin Cities United Way and task force co-chairwoman, said they “heard stories of suffering and of hope that shaped these important recommendations.”

“Through our work on the task force, we talked with hundreds of people who shared their experiences to help us understand how transformative a decent and safe place to call home can be,” she said.

Task force member Terri Thao said, “We all thrive when we have strong pathways to building wealth through homeownership, which can help break a cycle of poverty and generate resources to invest throughout the community.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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