Tania Rhiger brings lived experience to county housing decisions

Olmsted County Housing & Redevelopment Authority board member provides a voice for residents who rely on federal housing support.

Asked and Answered - Tania Rhiger
Tania Rhiger, the Olmsted County Housing & Redevelopment Authority Board Resident Commissioner, on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, at her Byron home.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Tania Rhiger knows from experience that finding housing in Olmsted County can be difficult.

“It took me a year to find housing,” she said of a move last year. “I was kind of desperate.”

A recipient of federal housing support, she needed a landlord that was willing to work with the system, and she wanted someplace that would work for her and her two teenage sons. She found it in Byron.

The background, along with years of experience with housing assistance, informs her work as resident commissioner on the eight-person Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority board.

The county HRA, which started collecting a tax levy in 2016, is required to have at least one board member who represents people who rely on federal housing assistance. The remaining seven members are elected county commissioners.


Rhiger is the second resident commissioner since the HRA board was reorganized in 2015, and she was appointed to serve a three-year term in September 2021.

In addition to bringing experience as a program recipient, she recently graduated with a masters degree in social work and is on a path toward becoming a licensed clinical social worker.

Approximately halfway through her first term, we asked Rhiger about being the HRA board’s resident commissioner. Here’s some of what she said:

Why did you decide to apply to become the Olmsted County resident commissioner? 

I was always interested in the board. … I like to get involved, here and there, as much as I can, and to learn.

Part of it was timing, too. I had seen the information before, but I was at a different place in my life at that time.

What motivates you to work with the housing issue? 

As we know, affordable housing is an issue, and I can’t say I understand all the ins and outs of it, but it feels like some of us haven’t been included in the conversations about housing.


That has been my experience in learning about Rochester. Rochester is awesome in so many ways, but there is a lot of wealth here and the rest of us are asking where we fit in. … They can’t do it without us, because there are a lot of people that make the system go. … Historically, some people have not been afforded the same opportunities and been suppressed or excluded. Then, it just keeps building and building, and here we are in 2023, and Rochester is growing and people fall behind.

What insights has the position given you?

It has helped show me how the system works. It didn’t take me joining the board to know the housing issues, but it’s nice to be on the other side, to see how it works and plant seeds with those around me about what else can be done.

Are the related decisions difficult?

One of the last votes I was involved in, where I felt my voice counted, had to do with adding social workers to schools … to address homelessness. It sounded like an easy answer to me, but hearing other people’s perspectives, from people who weren’t in support of it, that was interesting.

It sounded like a black-and-white thing to me — it just sounded like an easy answer to me — but they had some really good points. It’s not always an easy answer.

There are a lot of things that go into those decisions and the planning.

How important is the lived experience you bring? 


It’s so important, because without that there is no insight. One can say they understand and try to understand, but there’s a difference when you live it.

You can’t beat experience. It’s so important. If you haven’t been in that situation, you can try your hardest to understand, but sometimes there’s just too much of a divide.

You have a degree in social work, and work part time at Cronin Home. Are there other related roles that you would like to take on? 

I have stuff in the works and am looking to try to offer more support to single mothers and their families. … When I say families, that includes their fathers, the children’s families, but specifically single mothers to address the gaps.

I’m currently trying to do some research to figure out what has changed since I experienced those gaps. It’s been a rough haul for more as a single mother and someone who has had no support. Thank God for resources, which is what kept me alive and sane.

You’ve also been spotted volunteering with some local nonprofits. What inspires that?

I’m just trying to make a change for people like me, who need it.

I’ve been involved with CERT — Community Education Response Team. I like to help them hands-on with their activities in the summertime and whatever else I can help with to bring awareness to the different things we can do as community members to make a change.


I usually try to do something with the Salvation Army annually, because I was a recipient of their programs and so it feels good to see other people get the support they need.

I have been through some hard stuff, and I don’t want people to go through those things. I want to help them find support.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
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