Despite perceptions, housing market offers opportunities.

Tremendous opportunities exist in this area and we stand ready to work with private sector investors and builders to build model solutions and demonstrate how public private partnerships can work to everyone’s benefit.

Not unlike many of SW Minnesota communities, market rate rental housing supply remains one of the biggest challenges Nobles County communities are dealing with. Left unchecked the current market conditions will lead to market stagnation and will adversely affect economic activities.

In addition to locally grown initiative such as Nobles Home Initiative, WREDC is working with private and public sector partners to bring about innovative legislation is 2015 to help us deal with this problem. WREDC is working with Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Worthington, and Nobles County to help craft effective solutions.

Housing legislation must be guided by a set of principals, and below are ideas that we hope will help as our legislative leaders begin to craft new tools or modify existing ones to help Southwest Minnesota deal with housing issues:

  1. Integrate housing finance as part of economic and community development and start financing housing developments to ensure labor market stability and supply of qualified work force continuum. Evidence is all over media coverage of such labor housing needs statewide.
  2. Place heavy emphasis on rental housing construction perhaps within SW MN “regional centers”.
  3. Allow and encourage local housing authorities to experiment with new standards, design, and zoning regulations to help reduce cost.
  4. Enlist the help of satellite communities to promote and develop new housing alternatives. Many small towns throughout Nobles county have capacities to sell and can contribute substantially to solving the rental and owner occupied housing challenge(s).
  5. Allow for a greater local autonomy and suspension of certain burdensome “standards” for local projects that receive over 20% of funding from local tax increment financing sources.
  6. Place higher priorities to fund rental housing development in communities with higher percentage of recent migrant population. For example those with local demographics over 30% recent transplants or higher.
  7. Provide resources to the same regional urban centers to enable them to plan ahead for new housing development by funding the extension of water, sewer, utilities, streets, parks, etc..
  8. Perhaps review recent studies and economic data on wages, inflation, and unemployment to see if there is a link between wages and affordability, and later wages and housing starts in general.
  9. Create tax incentives (income, property, tax credits etc…) for private sector participation in rental housing developments.

Worthington’s case:

Housing continues to be a concern at all levels of the spectrum.  Worthington has seen a steady growth in population at over 13 percent from the most recent census data.  During this time of population growth there has been a stagnation of new home construction and is contributing to anemic job growth because of a lack of housing.  Worthington has taken on this challenge but with one local 48 unit housing project requiring a City loan of $1.6 million, HRA equity of $661,000 and other partners the financing gap cannot be replicated.  We need the State to partner with local governmental units by easing current Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and promote other measures to specifically address “chronic” housing issues of which Worthington and many other communities across Minnesota face.

With a strong employment need of our businesses we have proven that our economic tax and jobs base can grow but with an effective zero vacancy rate in rental housing and a demand for over 500 new units across the full housing spectrum by 2020 we need to expand tools to address “workforce housing.”  Encouraging work should be as important to the State as affordable housing.

Programs for workforce housing, rehabilitation or homes, tax incentives or other programs should be funded sufficiently to help address this critical issue and remove a significant barrier to economic growth.  Where financial incentives are not possible, the State should relax the relevant tools to let local governments meet this challenge and at least be in parity with our surrounding states.  The need in Worthington has clearly demonstrated a more active participation is needed from the State of Minnesota.

WREDC is  always looking for opportunities and innovative ways to do things. We welcome your input and your new ideas on how we can use an existing investment tool or outright create new ones to get things done. Feel free to call 507-372-5515 or e mail me at abraham.algadi@fronteir.com