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Lack of Workforce Housing Hampers MN's Economic Recovery

PHOTO: Gov. Mark Dayton will be in Roseau today to talk with local officials and business leaders about the lack of affordable housing for workers in areas of job growth in Minnesota.
PHOTO: Gov. Mark Dayton will be in Roseau today to talk with local officials and business leaders about the lack of affordable housing for workers in areas of job growth in Minnesota.
February 12, 2013

ROSEAU, Minn. - Governor Mark Dayton travels to northwest Minnesota today to attend a roundtable on the region's shortage of affordable housing. Some employers in Roseau and Warroad say they're poised for growth, but are limited by the lack of work force housing.

Such shortages are an issue in communities across the state, according to Warren Hanson, president of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund.

"Where we see it the most is in places like Worthington, where you have JB Swift; Roseau, where you have Polaris; Thief River Falls, where you have DigiKey; Willmar, where you have a food-processing plant; Mankato, (where you have) multiple employers," Hanson said. "So these are locations in Greater Minnesota where there is growing lack of work force housing."

Hanson said that if the shortages of affordable housing continue, the economic recovery statewide will be hampered. Dayton's budget includes a request for $10 million for affordable housing in communities with job growth.

As such projects move forward, according to Hanson, a focus will be making sure the housing is designed and built to be healthier and more energy-efficient.

"That saves energy, it saves money for the tenants, it improves the living conditions for people that have asthma or other issues, and it makes the housing more durable over time."

Among the groups in the state that have taken the lead on green and healthy housing initiatives is the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation. Senior Program Officer Jocelyn Ancheta said they've helped fund a number of projects in the state, because giving children a healthy start can have positive effects that last a lifetime.

"We believe that everybody deserves healthy housing, particularly for those living below the poverty rate. What we are doing is focusing on the youngest of the kids, the zero- to five-year-olds, making sure that they do have healthy housing so they're ready to learn."

About one-third of Minnesotans are currently housing-burdened, meaning 30 percent or more of their income goes to housing. That's up from less than 25 percent back in 2000.

More information is at bit.ly/VQwSH8.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN