Olmsted County housing a ‘looming crisis’

ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Destination Medical Center project has area leaders expecting southeast Minnesota to double or triple in size over the next 20 years, but before the project was announced, the area was still expecting a large amount of growth.

A recent study shows that developers are doing good job of keeping up with the market rate demand, but when it comes to lower income families, they are falling way behind.

“For those people who are median to higher incomes, the market rate will take care of that housing. It’s the middle and lower incomes that are going to be finding a problem with housing,” said Rochester Area Foundation President JoAnn Stormer.

Research shows that builders are only constructing ten percent of the demand for workforce housing in Olmsted County.

That is a problem, because those are the residents who play a vital role in the area’s economy.

“People come to work in communities where they know they can find stable housing. The housing market in Olmsted County is not working well for people with low-wage jobs,” said County Commissioner Stephanie Podulke.

“As the study shows, if you’re a care assistant or a teacher or somebody working in the hospitality industry, or one of the service industries or retail or so forth, you’re going to have a hard time finding an apartment today in Rochester or Olmsted County because the vacancy rate is right around one percent,” said Warren Hanson, President of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund.

City Council Member Michael Wojcik said do not forget about how workers are going to get to their jobs. Transportation plays a part in the problem as well.

“If we do not provide transportation options, if we tie the people in need of workforce housing to an automobile, we have done nothing to address the affordability crisis,” Wojcik said.

So these leaders know there is a lot of work ahead to address what they are calling a “looming crisis.”

“We need to make sure that we’re building wisely, thinking wisely, and being very proactive in how we address the issue of housing,” said County Commissioner Paul Wilson.

Stormer said that they hope for the planning group to start on their work soon so they can have a plan done by the end of the year. That way they can start implementing that plan in 2015.

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