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Al Depman: Affordable housing czar can address growing need


Al Depman

Digging into the region's affordable housing issues reveals a wealth of materials that would take an "affordable housing czar" to mine in an effort to adopt some cogent, if not radical, policy.

With research done by Destination Medical Center Corp., its Economic Development Agency and Journey to Growth teams, much of the legwork has been done, but our czar still would need to spend quality time digesting all the information to look for what has worked and what pitfalls were encountered. With those findings in hand, real-time recommendations could be vetted.

This czar also would advocate for the "have-nots" and be a housing resource for both public and private sectors, spurring cooperation between them.

To begin with, the czar can follow up on the 2014 Comprehensive Housing Needs Assessment for Olmsted County by Maxfield Research Inc. This excellent document points directly to the affordable housing issue. It was produced for the Olmsted County Community Services in coordination with the Mayo Clinic and Rochester Area Foundation as a compendium of resources devoted to financing, building and supporting low-income residents. Following up on the report's recommendations and observations should be a DMC priority.

Our czar can explore the National Foundation for Affordable Housing Solutions Inc. This nonprofit maintains several properties in the U.S., including nine in Minnesota: three in St. Paul, two in Mankato and one each in Minneapolis, St. Cloud, St. Peter and Maplewood. Why not Rochester?

What should be the role of the Mayo Clinic in this affordable housing arena? Our czar can see what dominant employers do in similar situations. Options include tax incentives to provide nonprofit housing for employees in a campus environment and even encourage employees to build so-called "granny flats." These stand-alone units on single-family lots are equipped like one-bedroom apartments.

Finally, our czar can dig into the report from the Brookings Urban Institute on the "Rethinking Local Affordable Housing Strategies – Lessons from 70 years of Policy and Initiative." There are multiple examples and do's and don'ts that can be applied to our DMC situation.

Our czar/advocate can keep the public abreast of the progress of the DMC, EDA, J2G and Rochester's future comprehensive plan,while monitoring private development initiatives via city council and county board decisions. Findings can be reported to us via the Post-Bulletin and other local media on a regular basis.

If we really want this issue addressed, there will be a lot of heads hurting and egos tweaked. Appeals to humanity over profit will be made. The real healing power of Rochester will be on display. If successful, however, we will emerge as a national model to be emulated — and even more of a regional magnet.

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Date: 2015-06-16

Source: Post Bulletin

Type: Comments

Sort Order: 1

State: Public