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Forfeited properties see chance for new life

Olmsted County commissioners, who also serve as seven of the county's eight Housing and Redevelopment Authority board members, agreed Tuesday to sell three tax-forfeited properties to nonprofit agencies through the HRA with the intent they be...

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Dave Dunn
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Three tax-forfeited properties — two in Rochester and one in Chatfield — are a step closer to providing affordable homes for families.

Olmsted County commissioners, who also serve as seven of the county's eight Housing and Redevelopment Authority board members, agreed Tuesday to sell three tax-forfeited properties to nonprofit agencies through the HRA with the intent they be converted to affordable housing.

The three properties were among five held back from potential auction earlier this year and offered to three agencies — Three Rivers Community Action, First Homes and Rochester Area Habitat for Humanity — as part of a pilot program.

"It will stop them from being holes in neighborhoods," HRA Director Dave Dunn said, noting the planned projects will return abandoned homes to livable spaces.

The pilot program was initiated in August with the hopes of finding properties that could be improved in an effort to provide affordable housing.

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Minnesota statute allows tax-forfeited properties to be sold to local government agencies, such as the HRA, for reduced prices.

Heather Beastlier of the county's Property, Records and Licensing Office, has said the county could see approximately six eligible properties a year, if the pilot program is deemed a success and commissioners want to continue the effort.

Of the three properties approved Tuesday, Habitat for Humanity will purchase two of the properties for a total of $22,500 with plans to build at least one new house and remodel another.

Dunn said a property at 307 Avenue B NE in Chatfield will be purchased for $2,500 with plans to demolish the existing house and build a new home that will be provided to a family with mortgage payments equal to 26 percent to 30 percent of the household's income. The plan calls for construction to be complete in 2020.

Habitat is also buying a home at 418 18th St. SW in Rochester for $20,000 with plans to reconstruct the home to create a five-bedroom home for a local family.

The third property will be sold to Rochester Area Foundation's First Homes program for $2,500 with plans to demolish the house and build a new home on the site, with the property put into the program's land trust, which helps lower the home's cost and keep it affordable for future buyers.

Two of the five properties considered for the program — one in Rochester and one in Eyota — did not receive bids from the non-profit agencies and will be returned to the county for a future auction.

The properties sold to Habitat and First Homes will remain off the tax rolls until they are sold to homeowners, said Mark Krupski, the director of Olmsted County's Property Records and Licensing Office.

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County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden said the benefits go beyond the added tax revenue, however.

"It's nice to see these properties reconditioned, reused and rebuilt," she said.

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