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Could 7,000 housing units solve St. Cloud’s housing problem?

By AUSTEN MACALUSJuly 6, 2019

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — First, St. Cloud officials wanted to better understand the city’s housing problem. A recent report provided the answer: St. Cloud will need to add more than 7,000 new housing units in the next decade.

Now, it’s time to find some solutions.

The city is developing a plan to meet the area’s growing need for housing. A five-year housing action plan will chart how the city will use federal funds to increase local housing in the coming years.

With increased attention about the lack of affordable housing, Matt Glaesman, St. Cloud’s community development director, said it’s time to move “forward into action.”

Glaesman presented the efforts last month to a group of local nonprofits, housing organizations and advocates at United Way of Central Minnesota. He said at the meeting people are “not just talking about (housing), but figuring out what to do about it.”

The 2020-25 consolidated plan, which the City Council plans to adopt next year, outlines the city’s approach to the Community Development Block Grant — annual money the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gives to communities with more than 50,000 people.

The grant aims to benefit primarily low- and moderate-income residents. St. Cloud typically receives around $500,000 each year, which is used for a range of projects, according to the St. Cloud Times .

After spending the past six months listening to housing challenges, Glaesman said the next six months will be focused on bringing people together to find solutions. The city will survey residents, convene focus groups and host public meetings before putting a proposal before City Council next year.

That plan comes at a time when the city is expected to undergo substantial growth.

St. Cloud had 70,239 people and 27,129 households in 2018, a nearly 20 percent jump from 2000, according to the housing assessment report. The city is projected to grow by 9% by 2030 — adding 6,508 people and 2,494 households — and an additional 6.5% — 5,103 people and 1,958 households — between 2030 and 2040.

To meet that growth, Glaesman said it’s going to take investment in the community. Luckily, he said, many developers are already interested.

Deanna Hemmesch, executive director of nonprofit developer Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, told city officials earlier this month cities and organizations need to work together to build more affordable housing.

“We need developers who are willing to build projects in St. Cloud. However, we need the support of the communities,” she said in public testimony before City Council on June 17. “We need the investment of the cities to assist with us to get projects like this funded.”

The housing assessment report found 20% of St. Cloud households are estimated to be cost-burdened, meaning they spend 30% of more of their income for housing.

That’s even worse for renters, with 45% of renter households cost-burdened. And rental vacancy rates are well below 5%, the level considered to be a healthy rental market.

Hemmesch highlighted the area has hundreds of homeless people looking for affordable housing.

Central Minnesota saw a larger increase in homelessness than the rest of the state. Wilder Research’s 2018 point-in-time count found 944 people experiencing homeless in Central Minnesota, a 20 percent increase compared to 2015.

Glaesman said there are more collaborative efforts between local organizations looking to take on the affordable housing problem.

“You see a lot of different folks come to the table because there are a lot of different facets of each,” he said. “I think there is a new momentum.”

That gives Glaesman hope the city will meet the demand for more housing in the coming years.

“I think it’s going to take a coordinated effort, but it’s achievable,” he said. “This time around it’s a little different.”

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Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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