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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Housing in Crookston: Officials to put their heads together on housing

  • They hope various stakeholders attend, too
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  •     CHEDA earlier this year paid around $12,000 for a comprehensive housing study of Crookston, a valuable update on previous, similar studies conducted of current and needed housing options in the community.   
        Once he had the thick document in hand, CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth hosted a meeting with city officials and community leaders to go over its findings. In a nutshell, the study determined that Crookston needs more of every type of housing you can think of, from income-based apartments, to market-value apartments, to townhomes and affordable single-family homes, and higher-priced homes.   
        Before, during and after the commencement of the study, things were, are and continue to move on the housing front in the community, with many housing irons, of sort, on the fire.   
        There are apartments being added through various renovation projects downtown, and parking is being added to make the apartments more attractive. There are homes being built in Barrette Street Estates and Nature's View Estates in the northeast corner, and home lots being marketed and built on on the former Lincoln School site and at Kevin Ross' Carman View Estates on Crookston's south end. Meanwhile, Hoiseth continues to work with developers on the potential construction of a multi-unit, market-rate apartment complex near Crookston Sports Center. Also near the CSC, city money is being spent to extend roads to the east and to the north, where a future residential housing subdivision has been platted.   
        That's all great, Ward 2 City Council Member Dana Johnson said at a recent council Ways & Means Committee meeting, but, she wondered, does it all add up to a strategic approach preceded by strategic planning?   
        "I understand all that's happening, but I think we can do better than just a thing here and a thing there popping up and then we try to do something," Johnson said. "We need to get on the same page as a council so when opportunities come up we're ready because they're already on our radar."   
        At her urging, the council, city leaders and any other community leaders or stakeholders who want to be a part of it will attend a housing-related discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall.   
        At Large City Council Wayne Melbye said he'd prefer it if contractors, lumber companies, realtors, financial institutions and other stakeholders would get actively involved to see if there are ways for people to collaborate. "We need more than just us involved; we need more people involved who have more knowledge on these things than we do," he said. "Sure, we're building a road by the sports center, but are we going to have to give lots away to get people in there?"   
    Page 2 of 2 -     Ward 1 Council Member Tom Jorgens said talk has to become action, and action is only possible when a commitment to investing funds is made. "If we want things to happen we have to allocate resources, otherwise we're just blowing smoke," he said.   
        One realtor in attendance at recent committee meeting, Shirley Iverson, said she believes the housing studies findings are accurate and the needs are worth pursuing. But, she added, the city needs to know what it's getting into when it pursues various housing-related developments.    
        For instance, Iverson said, the initial homes built as part of Barrette Street Estates were envisioned and publicly trumpeted as being affordably priced to add to Crookston's workforce, or provide increased affordable housing options for those who work in Crookston but live elsewhere. But that hasn't ended up being the case at several of the homes, with prices ranging from $264,000 to $276,000.   
        "I think you really missed the target that you set there," Iverson said. "With those prices, that's really thin are in Crookston when it comes to who wants to make that house payment and has the income to meet those loans."   
        Mayor Dave Genereux didn't disagree with that notion. "They've built maybe more than the market can afford, and they're probably a bit overpriced right now; it's a private business venture and they can take that risk," he said. "But we put in the smaller lot sizes because we figured it would spur smaller, more affordable structures."   
        Iverson said it's hard to fit "all the circles together" when it comes to housing and the roles of government and the private sector. "You're doing things, but there is still a dearth of quality, $150,000 to $200,000 homes in Crookston," she said. "That's an area that still really hasn't been addressed since you started talking about this a couple years ago. Those are the homes that many people can afford, and they're going to be quality homes."

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