New town homes are under construction in Litchfield

New housing of all types, including town homes like these under construction earlier last year just east of County Road 34 in Litchfield, is needed to solve Meeker County’s housing shortage.

Data from the Minnesota Housing Partnership’s 2019 State of the State’s Housing report suggests that the lack of affordable housing statewide is affecting everyone, with more disparate impacts for people of color, indigenous people, low-income families and seniors.

Meeker County has about 9,164 housing units — 21 percent of which are renters. In 2017, the median cost of rent within the county grew by 14 percent since 2000 while the median renter’s income has decreased 2 percent — from $626 to $714 — in this time period. This suggests that the cost of renting a home is outpacing the average renter’s wage increases in Meeker County.

In McCleod County, renters experienced an average rent increase of about 18 percent, while renters’ income increased 17 percent from 2000-2017, suggesting wage increases kept pace with rent increases. The median income of renters in McLeod County renters rose $4,765 — from $28,230 to $32,995 — from 2000-2017.

The report also includes county rankings and maps that reveal trends in areas such as gross rent increase, affordable housing for extremely low-income households and housing cost burden for seniors. The study suggests that many Minnesotans cannot afford a home.

“Rent and home values continue to rise while incomes decline or remain stagnant, putting a modest apartment or homeownership out of reach,” the study suggests.

Overall, Meeker County ranked 58th of 87 counties in percent rent increase from 2000-2017, suggesting the rent percentage change increased moderately and less than 57 other counties. McLeod County ranked No. 48.

Homeowners in Meeker County experienced a different trend in the cost of rent and wages increases. Median home value in Meeker County increased more than 21 percent from 2000-2017, with a 1 percent increase in homeowner’s wages during the same period. The median value of a home in Meeker County has gone up by about $28,546 — from $133,054 to $161,600 in the past 17 years. McLeod County homeowners experienced no increase in the median value of their homes, staying around $150,000, while homeowner income increased by more than 19 percent from 2000-2019.

During a housing forum in October, David Krueger, Meeker Development Corp. executive director, said that housing availability has been an ongoing issue and accelerated in recent years.

“What’s accelerated the conversation (about housing) has really been private industry,” Krueger said then. “They can’t find employees anymore, and their main factor is housing.”

Cost-burden households

In Meeker County, more than 2,185 households, or 23 percent of renters and homeowners, are cost-burdened by their homes — paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing each month. The report suggests that cost-burdened families are more likely to have insufficient resources to pay for basic needs, such as food and medicine. Of the cost-burdened households in Meeker County, about half are considered severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing.

Meeker County ranked No. 42 of 87 counties in highest percent of cost-burdened seniors, with about 52 percent paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing. For most severely cost-burdened renters, Meeker County ranked No. 20, with 22 percent paying more than half of their income toward rent. Stevens County ranked No. 1 in most severely cost-burdened renters with 34 percent.

The state of state’s housing

The State of the State’s Housing, the second report of its nature compiled by the Minnesota Housing Partnership, a housing policy and research think tank, looks at the state’s housing trends. MHP created its study and county profiles based on data released each year since 2009. The report includes the percentage of cost-burdened households paying at least 30 percent of their income for housing; a comparison of what common jobs pay relative to what renting and owning actually costs; changes in rent and home values; construction of multi- and single-family homes; trends in homelessness; and more.

The state’s southwest region, which comprises 18 counties, is one of the least-populated regions with almost 28 percent of its households in McLeod and Kandiyohi counties. According to the report, the population is projected to decline 6 percent by 2035, or about 15,300 people. This is reportedly the largest population decline and rate of decline in the state.

The region, however, has the lowest senior housing cost burden with 48 percent of senior renters and 20 percent of senior homeowners paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Statewide out of the 2.15 million households, about 26 percent are cost-burdened by rent and mortgage expenses. For the state of Minnesota, the average rent cost increased by 13 percent and the average median income decreased by 5 percent —$37,702 to $35,946 — from 2000-2017.

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