Letter to the Editor: Supporting affordable housing

Published 6:30 am Saturday, April 17, 2021

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In the recent news is the story about the possibility of transforming the old YMCA property into apartments. The proposal submitted is comprehensive and targeted towards affordable housing. It is to include 48 units, three stories with underground parking and very reasonable rents with the possibility of a child care center on the first floor. Another idea that surfaced at the last moment would be a market rate project that a developer out of Rochester is planning on submitting in the near future.

The question that arises is which one would be best for the community of Austin and its residents? Recent research tells us that both market rate and affordable housing is badly needed for the community of Austin and would be completely full within months.

The argument for the market rate project is that there is a significant need for additional market rate housing for professionals moving to the community or those who live in current apartments moving to the new improved apartments; thus freeing those units for others needing affordable housing. This translates into supposedly two winners as the saying goes. Those who would like to move up to market rate housing leaving the possibility for those who need affordable housing having an available rental unit or home to buy. The site is attractive for market rate housing as it is close to the downtown stores, the hospital, the new YMCA and across from the Mill Pond Park.

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Of course, the attractiveness of the site is just as appropriate and wonderful for those citizens of Austin who would live in the affordable units. With limited resources to use for housing, they have limited housing choices or options. They have to live where their financial resources take them, not where they would like to live.

My vote is for the development to be for affordable housing. Three Rivers, the developer, has a wonderful track record of building affordable housing with the recent Fox Point Townhomes Development being a total success. They have a plan in place with financial resources to make the project successful and there is a need for the project. Their 16-million-dollar project is a wonderful improvement to the property that presently sits not used and vacant.

However, there is even a better idea that could be on the table if we think “big.” Let’s do both projects while the time is ripe; the need is there and we have parties in place that want to help Austin become even a better place in which to live and work. The location of the former YMCA and the adjacent land next to Kuehn Motors makes for a winner for both affordable housing and market rate housing.

Roger Broughten

Austin, MN