City Council hears plans for new housing development
A new housing development currently in the works could add as many as 40 new homes to the city within the next two to three years. At a work session Tuesday, the City Council met with Anne Sand, housing specialist with the Headwaters Housing Deve...
A new housing development currently in the works could add as many as 40 new homes to the city within the next two to three years.
At a work session Tuesday, the City Council met with Anne Sand, housing specialist with the Headwaters Housing Development Corporation, to discuss plans for the new development, which is slated to be located on 13 acres of city-owned property just south of Rako Street.
"We think this is a terrific spot for housing development," Sand said. "We'd like to think that as a result of this development, we can reclaim the site, clean it up, and turn it into taxable property."
Sand cited a December 2005 study of housing in Beltrami County that found that population growth is leading to the need for more housing within the city. According to the study completed by Community Partners Research Inc., the city of Bemidji can expect the addition of approximately 680 new residents by 2010. Sand said if those projections are accurate, the city will need to add 125 to 150 new homes in the next four years to meet the demand.
The City Council was unanimous in its support for the development. They voted 7-0 to direct city staff to work with the HHDC on the housing project. However, other than the fact that it will be constructed on city property, it is still unclear how much of a role the city will play in the project.
City Manager David Minke said the city purchased the Rako Street property from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for $90,000 "a couple" of years ago, with the intent that the property will be utilized in the future when an opportunity such as this came along.
Under the proposal from the HHDC, the city would remain the owner of the site - at least for the short term - because, Sand said, the city might be eligible for more funding opportunities than would a nonprofit organization such as the HHDC.
"At some time, we'd like to see the city sell the site," Sand said, adding that the HHDC might be one potential purchaser of the property. She declined to discuss financial details of the project, stating that those issues have not yet been addressed.
Sand noted that the project is still in the early stages. "If you are curious exactly what's going to turn out and what the houses will look like, we're not that far yet," she said.
She estimated that perhaps the site would be developed into 40 lots, but emphasized that it was just a "ballpark figure" at this point. The proximity to Lake Irving and a drainage ditch on the site could affect the number of lots that are permitted, she said.
Sand added that the current plan is to build a combination of affordable and market-rate homes. Low-to-middle-income houses could be placed on smaller lots and be constructed with fewer amenities than the market-rate homes built in the same neighborhood.
"One of the opportunities we have is to create a development where when you drive along you don't know what's the affordable house and what's the market-rate house," she said. "We want this neighborhood to be a mix."
City Council members were openly enthusiastic about the project and the potential partnership with the HHDC.
"The city needs to be proactive in our housing needs and prepare for the future," said Councilor Nancy Erickson. "I support this project 100 percent."
Councilor Jerry Downs added that he sees this as an opportunity to create housing for senior citizens who are looking to downsize. "I do see the demand for affordable senior housing as well," he said.
Mayor Richard Lehmann agreed that the proposed Rako Street housing development would help the city prepare for future growth.
"We have an opportunity that many cities would like to have because we are growing and there is going to be a need for housing," he said. "This would be a nice addition to our community."