It's all part of the CrookstonInMotion initiative.

With the objective of continuing to communicate the progress of Crookston’s Stewardship Initiative, appropriately tagged “InMotion”, we desire to engage the topic of housing.  A key destiny driver identified by the InMotion planning process further zeroes in on the subject with the definition of “Building Houses and Creating Homes!”  

    This driver does not however stand alone.  Housing should complement the other destiny driver efforts of economic opportunity, downtown redevelopment, and sustainability.  Additional housing must result in more families and workforce stability that takes advantage of and creates economic opportunity.  An increase of housing and activity concentrated in the downtown area can further vitality and enhance the flavor of a more urban setting that is attractive to young professionals and even older adults.  And with sustainability as a guiding principle in housing encourages new multifamily units, populous concentration opportunities where they exist, and housing infill that takes advantage of available infrastructure and lots versus building upon areas with great crop production wherever practical.

    Following the InMotion destiny driver identification process, the City Council considered these four destiny drivers and a host of other strategies.  Ultimately, the Council concurred that providing housing incentives to encourage development was critical.

    So, together we must embark upon this driver to build houses and create homes.  Certainly everybody likes to see the brick and mortar that visually captures not only our interest, but enhances our perception that progress is truly being achieved.  One could argue that the concrete pour and lumber structure is actually the easier of the tasks, in that creating a home is indeed a broad mission with very specific results to each individual.  Exactly what do we need to do in order to create an environment in Crookston where this vital destiny driver can be realized, and our quality of life maintained?

    Perhaps we can get there quicker if we review just a few measures of success that the InMotion planning process identified for housing that can be achieved in a relatively short horizon.  First, Crookston will have incentives available for the refurbishment of old housing stock that provides for enrichment from within (not paving over farmland).  Second, Crookston will create a mechanism to encourage new build house construction focused on making provisions and assistance in obtaining necessary financing.  Third, and very important in our extremely mobile society, Crookston will house two commuters of out of town jobs for each one who commutes into our fine city to work.  In other words, take the job where you must, but make Crookston your home.  Bring your paycheck to our local banks, make purchases at our local retailers, and educate your children and make your home right here!

How do we realize these and other measures of success?  Input from a vast number of stakeholders identified a great need for rental and midrange priced housing.  Financing should be easier now with the cost of money being relatively inexpensive, but still many are not able to take advantage of lower interest rates due to personal debt or a lack of down payment funds.

    There are indeed many steps to be taken toward achieving our goal of increasing our housing stock value and opportunities in Crookston.  Already we are stepping forward with the creation of the Crookston Homestead Act.  This program, unanimously supported by the CHEDA Board of Commissioners and the City Council, is being designed in a manner where a residential lot is essentially given away at no cost to encourage rapid housing development.  The value of the lot can then be used as an asset to the individual and that provides assistance in obtaining the necessary financing to build.  The Crookston Homestead Act is possibly a model that can be applied to further developments but should be recognized as a pilot project towards our need for more affordable housing in Crookston.

    We welcome all to join the conversation and support of the destiny drivers needed to achieve the desired goals of our community.  Indeed, there is a vision beyond the present, but it will take investment to realize return.

    Chladek is City of Crookston administrator, and Hoiseth is executive director of the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority (CHEDA).