Workforce housing project in Rockford fails to garner funding

By Alaina Rooker
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City Administrator Dan Madsen revealed to the Rockford City Council at the Sept. 12 meeting that Sand Comanpanies’ application to build an affordable housing complex near the City Center Mall had not received adequate funding.

The City of Rockford had been anticipating funding results be mid-October, but Sand had notified the city they could not go forward with the project in a letter dated Sept. 5.

A 43-unit apartment complex aimed at affordability for local workers had been submitted to Minnesota Housing in June. The project needed approximately $900,000 in state and federal tax credits to move forward.

Sand Companies headed the project, and had found success in building 26 other workforce housing complexes in nearby cities like St. Michael, Maple Grove, St. Cloud, and Plymouth. They had reached out to Hanover about a similar project early this year, but their city council did not have interest.

The application for workforce housing projects in Minnesota had been described as “highly competitive” by Sand representatives.

The project was not unanimously popular among the council. The vote to approve purchase agreements was split with a 3-2 vote in June, with Councilors Rick Martinson and Ted Hill dissenting.

In the Sept. 5 letter, Sand requested the city to consider applying again next year. Staff was seeking direction on what to do with a residential property owned by the city and planned for demolition to complete the project. The house, located at 8905 State Highway 55, has possessions from a recently evicted renter still inside it, and could be sold or rented. It could also be demolished and used for commercial purposes in the future.

Council did not show interest in renting the property again. Councilor Rick Martinson said staff time spent on maintenance made the property unprofitable: “We never break even or made anything on that property as a rental property.”

It was agreed to pursue repair and sale of the property at its current residential designation. It was not stated whether or not the council would pursue another affordable housing project with Sand in the future.