AUSTIN, Minn. – Earlier today, U.S. Congressman Tim Walz (DFL) Minnesota, joined local leaders to discuss a growing challenge in many of our area communities — workforce housing.
“We want people living in our community,” said Craig Clark, Austin city administrator. “When you don’t live in the community, you don’t connect with the community, you don’t volunteer in community organizations or anything along those lines.”
That’s why Walz says they want to continue to grow a strong economy in southern Minnesota, but for the past couple of years, they are not seeing an increase in workforce housing. This leads to employees driving from other cities to go to work each day.
For example, the median income for a family in Albert Lea is around $36,000. When it comes to the median price for a home, they’re looking at around $120,000.
“I think this is an issue where there can be more collaboration with the Southeast Minnesota Initiative Foundation. They are starting to do some things based around collaborative efforts,” said Walz.
Walz isn’t the only one who believes coming together is the only way to solve this issue.
“The more resources and ideas that we can bring to the table, the better off it’ll be for our region,” said Chad Adams, Albert Lea city manager.
Adams was one of four panelists. They went over the challenges of providing workforce housing and are hoping to find solutions by hearing from successful communities around the state.
He says connecting with your city is also going to have an impact.
“In the local communities, just partnerships with employers, with bankers, with city agencies are important to try to solve solutions to the problems we have,” said Adams.
Adams also tells us that to be able to have more affordable homes, the federal government could offer tax credits to spur development. At the state level, lawmakers could offer grants and other sources of funding.
Walz believes hearing from other cities in greater Minnesota will help the need for workforce housing decrease.
“Coming together we find that they’re not all the same challenges in each community, but there is a lot of commonality and I think it strengthens in numbers so we’re not reduplicating efforts and learning from pass successes,” said Walz.