Reader letter

We have a severe affordable housing shortage here in Meeker County, Greater Minnesota and in the Twin Cities metro area. I believe a successful and popular program that has been a blessing in my home state of South Dakota, theGovernors House Program, is one that we could adapt and make our own here in Minnesota. After 15 years of studying this particular program, Iowa has come out with its own program called "Homes for Iowa".

In the South Dakota program, homes are built at the Mike Durfee Medium Correctional Facility in Springfield, South Dakota, and transported by employees of the prison all over the state. They are extremely well built, super energy-efficient with flexible plans, all handicap accessible and income based. I have visited often with the employee who has been in charge of the program since day one. The inmates, or residents, gain high demand skills in building trades which significantly reduces recidivism, with the vast majority doing very well once released, with a few doing extremely well owning their own companies. They could be building a house for a parent, relative or someone they know.

These houses at the price range they are at do not compete with the private sector, and buyers have access to USDA Rural Development and/or First Time Home Buyer financing unlike traditional manufactured housing formally known known as mobile homes.

Even modular homes built inside factories are priced higher and offer more customization. The Governors House Program structures can be placed on a foundation or a basement, and aa garage can be added, for example, which can be an opportunity for local contractors, businesses and be included in financing. It offers buyers the opportunity to have affordable home ownership, lower utility costs for those on fixed incomes, build equity and trade up eventually, if desired. These houses have been purchased by city and county economic development non-profits, along with developing streets and sewer to sell, to provide housing for teachers and help with workforce development issues. These houses also have also been customized to work for child care centers and mental health satellite offices in rural South Dakota.

My goal is to get as many voices as possible to move this badly needed program forward, source as much product as possible from Minnesota such as lumber, meet our price target goals for the mission these homes serve, get buy-in from candidates for political office, legislators, others, and be an incredibly positive experience for the residents in the Minnesota Department of Corrections, knowing the positive impact they are making for themselves and others.

Let's make this a big W (win) for Minnesota which can help reduce division, polarization and focus on our shared opportunities!

More information about the South Dakota Governors House Program can be found at https://www.sdhda.org/homeownership/governors-house-program

Miranda Gohn, Litchfield