July 18, 2024

Affordable Housing Development gets green light in county

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Jake Sias

Grant County Herald

Officials from West Central Minnesota Communities Action (WCMCA) met with the County Board on March 19 to address the challenges of acquiring suitable properties for their down payment assistance program. CEO Missy Becker-Cook outlined the difficulties faced by WCMCA in purchasing homes, attributing the problem to a stipulation requiring properties to be on the market for 30 days before acquisition. “We have had difficulty buying rehabbed homes, because the board had a stipulation that they should be on the market for 30 days prior to us purchasing. I think Joe and I have had four or five appointments, and every time we get to an appointment, it is already sold,” Becker-Cook explained.

To overcome these hurdles, Becker-Cook proposed the construction of three new houses. This initiative aligns with WCMCA’s mission to facilitate access to affordable housing in West Central Minnesota, particularly for families earning at or below 115% of the state’s median income. The board approved the proposal, agreeing to use ARPA funds to supplement the previously allocated $175,000, which includes $50,000 for down payment assistance for each home.

The Affordable Housing Program, partnering with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, engages seasoned carpenter, minimum security inmates, and local subcontractors to construct high-quality, energy-efficient homes requiring minimal maintenance. These homes are designed with a variety of floor plans to meet diverse family needs and can be modified for handicapped accessibility. A state-licensed building inspector ensures these homes meet or exceed building codes.

In line with the Community Land Trust (CLT) model, the program aims to provide permanent affordability in homeownership. The CLT, a nonprofit, community-based organization, safeguards land from the commercial real estate market to maintain long-term affordability for eligible homebuyers. Prospective homeowners benefit from a 20-25% reduction in market value, further facilitated by a land lease agreement. This agreement stipulates that if a home is to be sold, it must be to another income-qualified buyer, thus preserving the affordability of these homes for future generations.

Becker-Cook emphasized the importance of location in the construction of new homes, ensuring they are situated in areas conducive to employment. “We want to make sure they are in areas with employment or make it easy to get to employment,” she stated. The county board has delegated the decision of selecting the construction sites to WCMCA, which is in the process of coordinating with cities within Grant County to identify suitable lots.

By the end of summer, WCMCA plans to have completed at least one new home. This initiative is part of a broader commitment, as WCMCA celebrates its 60th year of fighting poverty, initiated by President Johnson’s declaration in 1964.

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