I read with interest the story in the Republican Eagle Wednesday about the obstacles to affordable housing. Prescott’s story sounds a lot like our story here in Red Wing, as neighborhoods rise up to stop the creation of affordable housing in their backyard. 

What a shortsighted approach, while many hardworking people able to afford rent, search in vain for a place to live. The need is so great, the supply so low that every vacant apartment has multiple applicants applying to occupy. Where are the workers that businesses desperately need going to live? 

Supply and demand is out of balance, and efforts to change that need to be embraced by all, so that people have a home. Land is scarce and costly in Red Wing, and maximizing what we have available just makes good sense. This will mean change for some.  Perhaps you will have new neighbors; perhaps they will be renters, not owners.  

For over 26 years Habitat for Humanity has been working to create more affordable housing for working people in Goodhue County, but we are only addressing a sliver of the need. We believe in homeownership as a better alternative to renting for many reasons, but when we see applicant after applicant trying to get out of their parents’ basement, or out of some moldy apartment, it’s obvious that better rental opportunities should and need to be developed.

Too many people think that affordable means subsidized housing. Yes, tax-increment financing is a subsidy of sorts, but why wouldn’t we use TIF to help developers build units that working people can afford? There is no other way to create housing for people that are below 60% of the area median income. That could be a single mom working for $20 per hour, supporting two kids.  That could be your daughter, your grandchild, your sister. 

When neighborhoods shout down affordable housing, they are limiting the growth and improvement of a city. I hope that the citizens of Red Wing are more forward thinking and are able to embrace the needs of their neighbors. Otherwise our story is a lot like other communities’, where growth is languishing, and people desperate for housing just move to the Metropolis. What a waste of human capital. 

There was this couple once, that couldn’t find a place to stay, and their baby had to be born in a barn … remember him? I hope that the citizens of Red Wing can open up their hearts and make room.  

John Parkes

Red Wing

John Parkes is executive director of Goodhue County Habitat for Humanity.