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Our view: Zumbro Ridge housing plan is creative option

April 17, 2019

The current shortage of affordable housing is beginning to resemble the severe post-World War II housing shortage.

The difference is that in the late 1940s and early 1950s, there simply weren’t enough homes for all the returning veterans and young families who wanted one. There was no inventory.

Today, while there are homes and apartments being built, too many people, even those holding down two jobs, can’t afford them.

As a result, a growing city like Rochester is on the verge of having a large working population excluded from much of civic and community life simply because these people can’t find an affordable place to live.

The solutions are going to have to be creative, and maybe some of those are starting to bubble to the surface.

We like, for example, the plan being developed at Zumbro Ridge Estates mobile home park, where 30 empty lots could provide affordable housing for 30 working families.

A co-operative formed in 2017 has purchased the park and has been able to keep lot rents at $375 per month. That relatively low rental fee, combined with the cost of a mobile home, makes the park affordable to working families.

The co-op can’t do it alone, however. Bear Creek Christian Church volunteers are preparing former rental homes for sale, and plan to repair more homes this summer. Evangel Methodist Church and HGA Architects and Engineers are also donating time and talents to the effort to improve the park. Residents are pitching in to improve the grounds.

As Steve Borchardt, the housing director for Rochester Area Foundation said, this initiative demonstrates the ability to meet the needs of those finding it difficult to locate housing. “We have to put some energy into helping develop this solution for people making $30,000 to $50,000 a year,” he said.

But members of the Zumbro Ridge board said that, while they appreciate the help, they’re not looking only for handouts.

“We don’t see ourselves as a community that’s just going to take,” said said Zumbro Ridge co-op board member Allie Lachner. “We just see ourselves as a community that is eventually going to give back, but we do need help now.”

And that’s the key for the city at large: Give people an opportunity to work hard, take pride in home ownership, raise their families in stable situations, and you’ve created a dedicated, involved citizen population that will give back in so many ways.

That, in our view, is worth every effort to find creative solutions to the housing crisis.