Austin gets $500K housing grant

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The city of Austin is getting a little help improving homes in the South Crane neighborhood directly east of the Hormel Foods Corp. plant.

The Austin City Council accepted a $497,000 Small Cities Development grant from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development during its Monday night meeting.

The grant money will be loaned out to homeowners directly east of Hormel for major improvements to owner-occupied homes, according to Jon Erichson, executive director of Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

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The city, through the HRA, will loan out up to $25,000 for homeowners to replace roofs, siding, windows and other major home renovations. In addition, Erichson said the city will forgive up to 95 percent of a loan if the homeowner lives at the property they’re fixing. The loan can be awarded up to seven years as well.

“This is a great thing not only for Austin but for Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority,” Erichson told council members.

In other news, the council:

—Approved an additional librarian at the Austin Public Library. The council preliminarily approved a new librarian during its June 2 meeting after Ann Hokanson, the library’s executive director, told the council two librarians would need to be hired to replace Gayle Heimer, who will retire in April 2015. The added position would likely cost the city $50,000 next year.

The council is considering raising the city’s 2015 tax levy by 5 percent to accommodate more city staff and keep current services. Council members won’t decide levy levels until later this year.

—Approved an individual control mechanism agreement with Bellisio Foods, Inc. for one month. The city of Austin has had an ICM agreement to provide sewer services to Bellisio for the past year, to gauge how much wastewater Bellisio produces. Public Works Director Steven Lang said the city is still working with the company to evaluate their wastewater flow and strength needs.