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Council backing to be sought for housing project

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will be asked on Monday night to support a proposed housing project in southwest Willmar for low-income and very-low-income individuals.

The Willmar Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership of Slayton are proposing a town home project as a portion of Westwind Estates, a single-family development owned and operated by Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

A proposed resolution in support of the project says the housing development is consistent with addressing a defined housing need. The project is proposing 15 units for immediate home ownership; 30 units for intermediate ownership (lease-to-own); and 6 permanent rental units.

The proposed development area consists of 15.6 acres of undeveloped land located next to 16th Street and 17th Street Southwest to the north and 22nd Avenue and 23rd Avenue Southwest to the west.

The site is zoned R-2 for single-family and two-family homes, and the units will need to be developed as duplex buildings. The site will need to be replatted to conform to the zoning requirements of the city, which require a minimum of 12,000 square feet and a minimum frontage of 85 feet for twin home lots.

The council will be asked by the Willmar HRA and Southwest Housing Partnership to support an application to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for $250,000 in small cities development funds.

Also, the council will be asked to support an application to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to establish a community land trust.

According to an executive summary of the project, a community land trust involves a grant that buys the land and improvements and enters into long-term leases with the buyers of the homes. This essentially removes the cost of the improved lot from the sales price and reduces the purchase price accordingly.

The buyer enters into a 99-year lease for the use of the underlying property. The land trust can enter into two consecutive leases of 99 years for a total of 198 years.

The property is controlled by an organization that is established for that purpose and would include local representation.

The lease requires the property to be maintained in accordance with local practices and established covenants. The trust would involve the 15 immediate for-sale units and the 30 lease-to-own units.

The project will include the use of low-income housing tax credits, which are sold to investors. The amount paid is invested in the project in the form of equity.

The summary said lease-to-own and community land projects have been developed in other cities and have effectively reached under-served and un-served markets. Such projects are designed to provide alternatives for low-income households that do not quality for traditional avenues to achieve home ownership, the summary said.

In other business, the council will honor Sgt. Julie Asmus as outstanding law enforcement officer of the year.

Also, the council will take comments from the public during the open forum; receive the report from the Community Development Committee; and act on municipal airport grant amendments.