Olmsted HRA to add two new units to combat lack of affordable housing

HRA adding two affordable housing units

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(ABC 6 News) – On Friday, the Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) announced, not one, but two ways to tackle the issue in the next few years.

Leaders say it will take $5 million to transform the Old Town Hall Building on East Center Street into 60 housing units.

Currently, they are dorms for Luther College students, leased through May 2025.

“One of the things that we’ll be doing is adding kitchen spaces. Currently, the units right now, have restrooms, they’re efficiency apartments that have a restroom but they don’t have a kitchen,” said David Dunn, executive director of the HRA.

Dunn says people could potentially move in as early as this summer.

“A lot of people just want a safe, affordable place to call home. That’s really the first thing we hear from people, is the need for a place to call home. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Trying for more options for youth, people over the age of 65, and people with disabilities.

Related: Forum for affordable housing in Olmsted County held at Rochester church

That isn’t all, $680,000 and about $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars will buy 10 lots on Red Hawk Drive SE in Rochester for single-family units. The HRA is working with First Homes on this. An organization helping families find affordable homes. But what does the county consider affordable?

“Affordable housing [is when] you don’t pay any more than 30% of your income in rent,” explained Dunn.

To the Rochester Salvation Army, the idea of affordable rent isn’t based on a number. It’s about not having to pick between keeping your home or putting food on the table.

“We’re helping about 10 households, 10 families with helping them with rent and things like that. But we’re also getting five to ten calls a day for help so we can’t keep up with the need,” said Major Candace Voeller with the Rochester Salvation Army.

The new units are seen as a positive but one with hurdles.

“I think a big challenge we’re seeing with families in particular is being able to pay a first and last month deposit for securing housing. So we’ll just have to see how those things work and come together when it comes to the availability of affordable housing.”

If you’re interested in either of these home options, you’re asked to go to the county website to see the different resources available. You can find that link, here.