The need for affordable housing continues to be a topic of discussion as local officials respond to increased homelessness in Rochester and the surrounding area.
“Homelessness really is a bigger story about what is the range of housing instability across the state or in Olmsted County,” said Amy Stetzel, the Upper Midwest director for the Corporation for Supportive Housing, which is working with Rochester, Olmsted County and the business community to develop a long-term strategy to address local homelessness.
She said housing instability can range from people who are one paycheck away from not being able to pay rent or a mortgage to others who end up sleeping in the city’s skyways with no place to turn.
With that as a backdrop, Dave Dunn, Olmsted County’s housing director, plans to update the Rochester City Council on the work being done by the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“I think the purpose of what I want to do is share with them is what we are doing, because a lot of times they just don’t know,” he said, noting he plans to provide updates on how the HRA levy is being spent to help people in the community.
The presentation is set for the 3:30 p.m. council work session on Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center.
The City Council had a representative on the HRA board until 2016, when Olmsted County commissioners implemented a countywide HRA levy to provide funding to address housing needs. At the time commissioners opted to redefine the board to include the elected county board members and one community representative who uses a housing program.
The HRA board recently approved increasing the levy to the maximum allowed by the state, which will collect $38.91 a year from a home with a $250,000 taxable value. The tax levy is expected to generate approximately $3.5 million in HRA funding for 2020.
The levy funds housing rehabilitation efforts, planned development of affordable housing and programs seeking to help people stabilize their housing and avoid homelessness. The county HRA also oversees the local implementation of federal housing programs.
By maximizing the HRA levy, Olmsted County Jim Bier noted recently the funding available from year to year is capped.
“That’s the end of the money,” he said. ”There’s only going to be so much money in the pot.”
He suggested agencies with future requests may need to look to new partnerships for housing funds, which could include the city.
The city has already joined efforts with the county and local businesses and other agencies to create a planned warming center at 200 Fourth St. SE, which is expected to provide a nightly space for up to 30 homeless residents by Dec. 1.
The city and county have each pledged to cover a third of the warming center costs, with Mayo Clinic, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and others looking to provide the remaining funds.