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County told of need to address housing issues

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES
  • Star Tribune
  • November 16, 2012 - 4:51 PM

Washington County faces a "significant shortage" of affordable housing by 2020 without quick action to meet population projections, the County Board was told last week.

"We do have a supply problem. We are lagging behind affordable housing production," said Barbara Dacy, executive director of the county's Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

The county's population within seven years will top a quarter million residents and by 2030 will hit 300,000, driving a "significant demand" for affordable housing that could far exceed available living units, Dacy said. Retirees in the county will need twice as much affordable housing in 2020 as they do today, she said.

To reverse that trend, the HRA intends to invest its efforts in 2013 toward building new living units and helping the private sector produce housing projects, Dacy said.

Partnerships with cities -- which HRA board member Tom Triplett described as an "extraordinary talented use of resources" -- will move toward that goal.

The HRA in 2013 will be involved in key redevelopment projects in Newport and Mahtomedi that will result in new senior housing in both cities.

In Newport, the Red Rock Gateway Redevelopment will be built around a new transit station that will funnel commuters into St. Paul and Minneapolis. In Mahtomedi, the Piccadilly Restaurant site will become a gateway to the city's downtown, and a 79-unit senior apartment building is proposed.

"It's keeping seniors in their communities," HRA board member Kuchen Meyer said of such city projects.

Washington County fell behind with affordable living properties years ago when HRA struggled with cash flow problems, said Dennis Hegberg, who chairs the county board and also serves as a member of the HRA board. The HRA's purchase of the manufactured home city of Landfall and a property in Oakdale "weren't very economically viable," he said.

As a result, the county lacked affordable housing projects for several years until Red Oak Preserve was built in Oakdale and Trailside Senior Living was completed in Forest Lake, he said.

Another county commissioner, Autumn Lehrke, said she favors emphasis on economic development to build more private, "market rate" housing, rather than affordable housing.

Triplett said the HRA board has talked about how that might happen.

The HRA isn't asking for any additional county levy money in 2013 over what it received this year,

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037, Twitter: @stribgiles

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