To the editor: 

What is affordable housing?

Housing is affordable when you spend less than 30% of your take-home pay on rent or mortgage. Affordable housing is NOT subsidized housing, Section 8 housing, public housing, or welfare housing.

In Minnesota, 1 out of 10 households spends more than half its income on housing. These households are severely cost burdened. Households that pay more than 30% of their income are cost burdened.

The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota is $979. A Minnesotan must earn $39,141 ($18.82/hour) per year to afford that apartment. At minimum wage ($9.65/hour) that Minnesotan earns $20,072 annually (40 hours/week).

The median household income in Red Wing is $50,746. That means that half (3,500) of the households in Red Wing earn less than $50,746. We all know a household in that 3,500 that earn less than $50,746. These are the people that need affordable housing most.

The Greater Minnesota Housing Studies reveals a very low vacancy rate in Red Wing - 78% of market-rate rentals have vacancy rates of 5% or less. The vacancy rate is 91% for the same rate of subsidized rentals. There is a demand for hundreds of general rental and for-sale units in Red Wing, and for nearly as much senior housing, over the next 10 years, according to the housing needs analysis, completed by Maxfield Research in 2015.

Pablo Murillo wants to build 100 market-rate and affordable housing units in the former St. John's Hospital. I say bravo! That is a great re-use of a building for something our city is in great need.

Neighborhood residents that consider these units low-income are misinformed. Low-income housing is divided into public housing and Section 8 housing. Both are administered by Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Murillo did not include that type of housing in his proposal. However, more housing of any type will be useful to Red Wing. Yes, we do need more low-income housing.

Mr. Murillo also stated that he would treat people fairly. That is more than I have read from the not-in-my-back-yard comments on this topic. I am proud to work with the affordable housing industry and I would be proud to have this project completed in my backyard.

Nicholas Abney

Red Wing

Nicholas Abney is president of the Goodhue County Habitat for Humanity Board.