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Jackson tries to address housing inadequacies

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JACKSON -- Like many other thriving small towns, Jackson is exploring options to address a lack of affordable housing and rental units, especially for middle income earners.

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The Jackson Economic Development Board has been working on improving housing options and recently was presented a draft version of a housing study done by Community Partners Research.

The study recommends the city of Jackson add up to 74 more rental units and increase the number of houses in the $100,000-to-$150,000 price range to meet the city's needs.

At a Jackson Economic Development Authority meeting Thursday, several local housing groups presented information about programs they have that could assist the city of Jackson.

Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP), a non-profit community development organization that serves 30 counties in rural Minnesota, highlighted various options that could be utilized to create more housing in Jackson.

"We're looking at the low income tax credit program, which we also have used to rehabilitate and develop property in Worthington," said Lisa Graphenteer, chief operation officer, referencing the work that SWMHP did with Worthington's New Castle Townhomes and the Viking Terrace apartment building.

In Jackson, the SWMHP would act as the developer of the project.

"We would assemble the project, then continue to own and operate the project," said Graphenteen, emphasizing that the organization would still work together with the community.

"It's still a partnership," she said. "They might have a resource that they would be able to provide for the project. Some communities have done a land donation, for example. It's a joint effort."

"(They) are a non-profit that could take on a project like this," said Persig, in reference to a SWMHP-led project.

According to Persig, the city's financial advisor also spoke at the meeting about essential function bonds that could also be used for future housing projects.

While any development would ideally be privately led, Persig said, she admitted it's difficult for a private group to develop housing projects in small communities.

"But the city has developed subdivisions in the past and opened those areas up to build new homes," she said. "We have a history of doing that and are comfortable at the level that it was a success."

Persig said employers especially feel the impact of the housing shortage.

"It's hard for new hires to find a place to rent or buy, and we end up with a lot of people commuting into work," she said

From an economical point of view, "That isn't what we want. We want the employees to live in town, or at least the majority of them," she added.

Persig cited the national housing market of recent years has contributed to the problem.

"People who move here from other communities haven't been able to sell their homes and move here," she said.

Steve Griesert of Community Partners Research, developer of the housing recommendation draft, said its recommendation comes after examining census data, demographics and city and county records.

"We also go to the community and talk to realtors, employers, city officials, builders -- to get an on-the-ground feel," Griesert said.

There are five categories in the recommendation draft, Griesert said: New housing construction, home ownership, housing rehabilitation and other -- which in Jackson's case included 17 other recommendations.

"It's a pretty extensive analysis, and we take pride in going to the community and actually talking to people," he added.

While overcoming housing problems won't be an easy process for Jackson, both Griesert and Persig agree it's not a bad problem to have.

"It's good that we have people wanting housing and people who want to live in the community, but it's too bad when we can't provide that and we can't provide that overnight," Persig said. "We don't want to build until we have the demand."

Griesert, who has worked with many small towns as a housing development consultant, agreed that the problem in Jackson is a good one.

"We seldom see a small town that has this many jobs," he said. "It's really unique that there are so many jobs and industries and employers in a town the size of Jackson."

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at

376-7322.

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Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at http://throughthelookingglass.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7322
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