Front Door meets with Thief River Falls leaders

 Elected officials, local employers and civic leaders met to discuss housing needs and solutions with Prosperity’s Front Door representatives, Warren Hanson and Jeff Fagerstrom.

Elected officials, local employers and civic leaders met to discuss housing needs and solutions with Prosperity’s Front Door representatives, Warren Hanson and Jeff Fagerstrom.

Major employer DigiKey hosted a meeting of Thief River Falls business and civic leaders to hear from Prosperity’s Front Door campaign, learn about the Minnesota Housing Task Force, and share local perspectives on the region’s housing needs.

Warren Hanson, President & CEO of Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and one of the sponsors of Prosperity’s Front Door, stated that housing is a key component of Minnesota’s infrastructure, but that the state is at risk of losing its competitive edge if it doesn’t address Minnesota housing shortage soon.

Hanson explained that housing costs have risen far faster than wages over the past two decades, making it harder for working Minnesotans to contain their rent or mortgage. He noted that Minnesota needs to build about 50,000 homes a year to meet demand, yet increases in land, labor, lumber and regulatory costs have made building a new starter home virtually impossible.

Hanson reviewed the recommendations that emerged from the Minnesota Housing Task Force convened earlier in 2018. While the Task Force identified more than 30 recommendations, the following rise to the top:

  • Make housing more affordable by removing the red tape and regulatory that increase costs without adding to the safety or quality of homes. 

  • Put Minnesota’s creative talent to work. New ways of building (including manufactured homes), recruiting and training skilled workers to the construction industries and promoting new financing tools can ease the costs and meet the demand for high-quality homes at all price ranges.  

  • Keep the homes we already have, especially the most affordable ones. Minnesota has a good stock of existing homes. Among the many approaches to preserve these homes are low-cost rehabilitation loans that help older Minnesotans stay in their homes while making them more marketable when it comes time for the owners to sell.   

  • Finally, more investment in housing is needed from government, the private sector and philanthropy. 

Jeff Fagerstrom, Executive Director of the Northwest Minnesota Housing Cooperative in Thief River Falls, joined Hanson in addressing the group. He shared his perspective on where the community is hurting the most from the housing shortage.

Participants in the event included Senator Mark Johnson, Rep. Debra Kiel, Rep. Dan Fabian, board members of Jobs, Inc., several City of Thief River Falls city council members and county commissioners, representatives of the NW MN Multi County HRA, Realtors, chair of the Downtown Development Association, and the head of the school district.

Prosperity’s Front Door has made a point of holding “Community Days” in communities around the state. Each day includes a presentation to local business leaders and area elected officials, opportunity for discussion of regional challenges, and additional interviews with local newspaper editorial boards and radio stations. Additional Community Days to date have taken place in St. Cloud and Winona.

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Jillian Mazullo