Affordable Housing Task Force

The Dream of “Affordable Housing”

At a meeting Thursday evening I was asked why MCEDC (Marshall County Economic Development Corporation) is included in the Affordable Housing Task Force for Culver and I didn’t give you the best answer.  Let me see if I can do better here.

One of the things that came from the MCEDC BEAR meetings was the need for more good employees. In the last six months the unemployment rate in Marshall County has dropped another percentage point to 4.5%.  (Doug Anspach, former PEDC Director, used to say that at 4% unemployment everyone that is able and willing to work is working.)  Since no one is stepping up to address this employment issue, we have added “Workforce Development” as one of our four main action items in the MCEDC strategic plan.  Housing is just one of the issues that needs to be addressed under workforce development. 

In the case of Culver, MCEDC just helped Elkay obtain a tax abatement.  Part of Elkay’s expansion plan includes the addition of 100 employees.  We need to help them address this workforce issue if we want their expansion to be successful.  If Culver wants to consider further growth, we have to be able to show that we can provide the workforce.

Between Elkay in Culver and the various other expansions in the County, we have companies projecting the need for over 500 new employees in the next 2 years.  We have job opportunities.  We have quality of life.  We are working on training.  We need housing.

Sand Hill Farm

I question the premise that we just need to find developers to do this because they are all missing an opportunity.  If it was truly a lucrative opportunity they would be coming to us.  To be completely up front, I would consider developing Sand Hill Farm for this, but I can’t make the numbers work.  The new norm for business financing is 20% down and 20 year adjustable mortgage.  That’s a steep hill to climb to put up spec housing.  Please don’t take this as being negative though.  I’m just being rational.  I would love to find a way to make it work!  I know it is still being done on large scale projects and they are probably able to negotiate better terms, but I question that at the level we’re discussing.

In a nutshell, MCEDC sees the dearth of entry level housing in Marshall County as an impedance to economic development.

For more on Affordable Housing, see a previous post here.

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