Housing needs collaborative effort

To the editor:

We appreciate the column by Journal Publisher Greg Orear on Sunday, lamenting the housing shortage in New Ulm. He highlighted an issue of great concern to many in our community including employers, Realtors, the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce, school officials and others.

Through the NU2020 Community Visioning efforts, this issue quickly rose as a top priority and business, community and local government leaders have been addressing this matter in a variety of ways over the last year:

• From the Community Visioning retreat, the Housing Needs Initiative task force was created. The goal is to gather data and identify solutions to the issue.

• In January, the New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA) commissioned an updated housing study. This should be completed in June 2017.

• The HNI and other business leaders have been working with Community Housing Development Corp. (CHDC) of Minneapolis in the renovation of the former District 88 Junior High site at Center and No. State Streets. This renovation is a $12 million dollar project and will result in 50-55 affordable housing rental units. The next award opportunity for the tax credits that will help fund this project occurs in October.

• The EDA has taken action to make four Section 8 housing vouchers permanent to New Ulm (i.e., if recipients relocate outside of New Ulm, the voucher doesn’t leave with them).

But there is much more to be done. Several additional actions were identified at the recent luncheon on the housing issue:

• Phase 1 of the Milford Heights Addition is nearly complete. Phase 2 should get immediate attention with re-platting to accommodate a greater variety of housing (e.g., patio homes, townhouses, multi-family). The EDA’s housing study will assist with this planning.

• The City needs to consider its land use plan and an aggressive expansion of zoning and utilities that will make it more attractive for housing developers to begin breaking ground. There seems to be sufficient parcels of land in New Ulm for development; an effort needs to be made to identify and address the impediments to their development. The City and the EDA can play an important role in enhancing infrastructure and making investments that spur private development.

Without sufficient housing, our tax base doesn’t grow, our schools lose funding, and our businesses cannot hire and remain competitive. The families and the jobs go elsewhere. This housing issue needs a collaborative and proactive effort of all sectors of the community, private and public, to keep New Ulm moving in the right direction.

Daniel Braam

Housing Needs Initiative (HNI) Chair

Donna Lambrecht

NU2020 Steering Committee, HNI Board Member

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