Local economic development is largely focused on business growth and expansion, providing opportunity, capital investment and the construction activity that characterizes a growing community. But another factor is increasingly part of the local economic development conversation: the availability of affordable family housing. We can’t have great hometowns without a good supply of homes.
Every community in our region is talking about housing inventory, new home affordability and residential projections for the future. Some have addressed the issue with studies, which assess current housing inventories and anticipate future need.
No matter the case, every strategy that adds to the available housing market in our communities is a good one—and there is no “one size fits all” solution to the challenges we face in providing growing families and new residents with homes. Here are a few ways that communities have shown innovation in tackling housing:
1. Involving students. The Lennox Area Development Corporation has combined hands-on learning experience with solving the housing need. The LADC provides the building materials and the high school building construction class uses the job site as a classroom.
2. Incentives. Some communities in the region are utilizing local property tax abatements for new homes constructed. Other communities in the Midwest are even giving empty lots away to spur new home construction.
3. In-fill sites. There may be dilapidated or abandoned properties in our communities that would be candidates for redevelopment. Programs exist in our region that can help communities accomplish this.
There are also other resources like Sioux Empire Housing Partnership that provide home ownership and rental education and others that provide down payment and other housing assistance programs. Ask around—you’ll find that people are working hard to ensure that, as our hometowns grow, there will be homes for the families who want to live in them.
By Nick Fosheim, Executive Director, Lincoln and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations
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