SLEEPY EYE - A representative of a Minneapolis-based real estate research company reviewed a city housing study Wednesday to a group of business and industry leaders.
Matt Mullins of Maxfield Research Inc., talked about the challenges and opportunities of the $12,000 study, which was authorized by the Sleepy Eye EDA (Economic Development Authority).
"I'm impressed with the city," Mullins said. "You have a well-maintained housing stock showing ownership pride. Most downtown buildings are occupied. We've done many rural and metro studies like this, creating tool kits to find housing opportunities and gaps. I suspect much of your population is 55 to 64 year olds. The challenge is getting younger professional people to move back home by offering them market rate housing. "
Mullins works with real estate developers, city and county agencies, local and regional housing authorities, investors, lenders, health care organizations and others on projects.
Sleepy Eye Medical Center CEO/Administrator Kevin Selheim talked about the need for local housing.
"Local employees stay with us longer than people who live out of town that often move on in two to three years, which costs us money to rehire and train people," Selheim said. "We have recently hired a number of doctors who are Sleepy Eye natives."
While a number of people agreed that senior housing, assisted living and other services like Meals On Wheels are abundant, rentals for professionals including nurses and new teachers in town are scarce, forcing most of them to live elsewhere. Some commute from as far away as Mankato.
"It's tough for single renters here," City Manager Mark Kober said.
A lack of available residential building lots was mentioned, especially on the north side of town. Dave Haala suggested the city do TIF (Tax-Increment Financing) for new lots.
"We lose many employees to New Ulm," Haala said.
Mullins said existing homes can be rehabilitated more easily with 1 percent HRA (Homeowner Rehabilitation Assistance) loans for windows, roof and siding improvements.
Mullins said his firm will request and study data and interview people regarding past housing studies, building permits and demolitions, assessor's databases, housing programs and vouchers, apartment lists, licensed, single-family rentals and "shadow market" rentals, lot inventories, larger employers, realtors, builders, housing professionals and other key stake holders.
"We'll look at many things before holding our next public meeting in 45 to 60 days," Mullins said.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).