An inclusionary housing policy, a new look at development incentives and other affordable housing measures could be on the way for the city of Rochester.

The Rochester City Council on Monday met with affordable housing leaders from the city and Olmsted County to craft a plan for continued action in addressing a growing housing crisis.

The city has invested in affordable housing in the past — including $14.7 million in tax increment financing to affordable housing projects since 1999 — but some of that work has slowed; the city "got the wheel stuck in the mud a little bit," council member Michael Wojcik said.

Wojcik called for the topic to appear at a council committee of the whole meeting and asked for immediate and prolonged action to create affordable housing units.

"This is a regional issue, it's not just Rochester," Wojcik said. "But as is often the case, Rochester must be the regional leader in terms of getting some policy in place and creating the number of units we're going to need as an economy."

The council heard updates from Cheryl Jacobsen, Olmsted County housing director; Steve Borchardt, Rochester Area Foundation housing initiative director; and John Errigo, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund syndication and loan officer.

According to Errigo, Rochester would need to produce 913 affordable housing units per year to meet 100 percent of the current demand, or 4,563 units during the next five years.

Each speaker presented information on how the city might support ongoing efforts to curb the affordable housing shortage. After discussion, the council agreed to explore three short-term action items.

The council plans to seek a proposal from Cornerstone Partnership, an inclusionary housing expert, to development an inclusionary housing policy for the city. The council also plans to use density bonuses to encourage creation of more affordable housing units in residential developments.

Finally, the council said it would continue to to be a participant in local housing efforts, potentially including the Rochester Area Foundation's upcoming funding initiative.

During the regular city council meeting later on Monday, council member Nick Campion initiated a formal action to direct city staff to begin pursuing the ordinance changes requested at the committee meeting. That action was approved unanimously.

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