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Can social agencies keep pace with DMC growth?


Community members and local leaders convened Wednesday evening to discuss the social justice issues the Destination Medical Center project could cause in Rochester area and how to solve them.

The gathering, organized by the Justice and Peace Committee of the Congregational Church United Church of Christ, featured six presenters from local nonprofits, government agencies and the judicial system. They addressed how to ensure that Rochester's social justice infrastructure is able to keep pace with high population growth and redevelopment of the downtown area.

"The social services discussion of this expansion is still in the 'early stages.' That is unacceptable. It needs to be considered now....We have to protect against this indifference," Olmsted County District Judge Kevin Lund said.

Cheryl Jacobson of the Olmsted County Housing Redevelopment Authority pointed out that Olmsted County is already facing a shortage of affordable housing, which is defined as having rent that costs less than 30 percent of an individual or family's income. Currently, 22 percent of homeowners and 45 percent of renters in Olmsted County face monthly housing costs above the "affordable" mark.

Some criticized recent media reports that Salvation Army locations downtown could be forced out by development.

"As DMC happens, we don't want to stand in the way of growth and improvement, but it still needs to serve the people that the Salvation Army works with," Major Jim Frye of the Salvation Army said.

While working with the homeless, Trent Fluegel from the Interfaith Hospitality Network noted that he had seen significantly higher percentages of individuals coming through the organization that had jobs, but still couldn't afford to pay rent.

Requirements for tax incentives provided by the city came up several times as a possible course of action for the future, from requiring that employers pay a certain wage or a certain percentage of full-time employees, to requiring that developers incorporate affordable housing into plans.

"Everything we talk about tonight will have a cost, and we have to figure out who will bear that cost," Fluegel said.

The presentations were followed by a short discussion period where leaders and community members interacted to discuss solutions to the issues raised. Some of the topics addressed included transportation, downtown resources, affordable housing construction, and how to address concerns with elected officials.

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Date: 2015-06-18

Source: Post Bulletin

Type: Comments

Sort Order: 1

State: Public