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Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - A new initiative to address affordable housing needs in Olmsted County is expected to be voted on next week. Its price tag is $16-million.

The recommendation will be taken up by the Olmsted County Board during its Tuesday meeting.

County staff is recommending “a five-year investment in affordable housing to create and preserve more than 1,100 affordable housing units in Olmsted County and a new program to build and purchase affordable homes to help more residents move into homeownership.” The money will come from the $30-million the county received from the federal American Rescue Fund Act.

The county and city of Rochester have been working on several housing initiatives and homelessness programs during the pandemic.

Here is what the city has done:

  • The city provided over $875,000 in funds for the operation/renovation of the Day Center currently being operated by The Landing.
  • During the governor’s Stay-at-Home order, the city coordinated $475,000 in Emergency Services Program grants through three different rounds of funding for services for people experiencing homelessness. The city also allocated $400,000 toward the operations and construction at Silver Lake Station. The city’s Community Development Block Grant funds support the program by paying for utilities.

The county's initiatives include:

  • In late 2019 the county partnered with Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota to open the Rochester Community Warming Center.
  • During the COVID pandemic, the warming center remained open beyond winter. It has since been expanded to accommodate more people. The warming center served 455 unduplicated individuals during 2020 and averaged 900 shelter nights per month. The warming center will continue to operate year-round with a new partnership that includes a county social worker present during evening intake. That individual will begin finding more stable housing as early as possible when a person seeks shelter.
  • The county also created a housing stability team with six staff in 2020 that has helped find permanent housing for more than 150 people since its inception.
  • The county has also improved the supply of and access to permanent housing through innovative programs like the Master Leasing program. This program allows individuals who have poor rental or credit history to rent from the county as their landlord and build credit history. Olmsted County created more than 100 new rental assistance units for its most vulnerable residents.

Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn says “the key to best practices is to focus on finding long-term housing. The goal of shelters, by contrast, is to connect people to housing as quickly as possible, making the experience rare, brief, and one time.”

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