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Wells turns its attention to local housing

By Staff | Jan 29, 2017

Housing was on the mind of the Wells City Council last week as the members of the council dove into a comprehensive study of housing needs from Community Partners Research Incorporated’s Steve Griesert.

The study, which analyzed the overall housing needs of the city of Wells, prompted a discussion of what Wells’ projected population and housing needs will look like in the next 10 years.

The housing study was composed of information collected from a variety of resources including the U.S. Census Bureau, the American Community Survey, records and data from both the city of Wells and data maintained by Faribault County, as well as information from the Minnesota State Demographer and Esri, Inc., a private data company.

There was also data collected from interviews with city officials and staff, community leaders, stake holders, housing agencies, rental property owners and managers and a housing condition survey.

Information presented by Griesert showed that Wells’ population is in slow decline since 2000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

From 1990 to 2000, Wells had an increase of 1.2 percent in its population growth. But that changed between 2000 and 2010, when it showed a decrease in population of 6.1 percent, going from a population of 2,494 residents down to 2,343 residents.

The study stated, “Esri projects a loss of 76 people in Wells from 2015 to 2020. Esri’s projection for Wells in 2020, at 2,156 people, is very similar to the projection from the State Demographer’s Office, which expects the city to have 2,167 residents by the year 2020.”

The State demographer, Census Bureau and Esri, Inc. all released population estimates following the 2010 Census, says the report, and all three of those sources believe the city has lost population since 2010.

The study also indicated a decline of population in the 25-54 age range of almost 100 residents while age trends also indicated an increase in residents aged 55-74.

The study also stated Wells witnessed a decrease in family households both with and without children while seeing a gain of single parents with children households as well as householders without spouses.

Summed up, Wells may want to discuss having more apartments or multiple unit housing rather than full houses in their town, says Griesert, to accommodate their population needs for their current population and in the future.

The housing study gave the city of Wells 23 recommendations to look at regarding rental housing development, home ownership, single-family new construction, housing rehabilitation, and other housing initiatives that would encourage population and housing growth in the community.

Just a few of those ideas were to:

Develop 14 to 16 general occupancy market rate rental units;

Promote a modest expansion of senior housing with services;

Develop a mixed-use commercial/housing project;

Consider lot availability and development for new construction;

Coordinate with agencies and nonprofits that develop affordable housing;

Promote owner-occupied housing rehabilitation programs;

Acquire and demolish dilapidated structures;

Strategize for downtown redevelopment.

And finally, the housing study’s last suggestion simply stated “The ‘Old School’?Site,” which is the exact subject the City Council discussed in a closed session with members of the HRA.

The closed session was for consideration of real property purchase of the former United South Central school site as well as a separate consideration of real property purchase of the former Paragon Bank building. This second closed session was without the HRA present. There was no action taken during these closed sessions.

During their meeting, the City Council also:

Went over their 2016 goal review and their 2017 council goals. Most of the unachieved 2016 goals were tacked on to 2017’s list.

A few items from their discussion were to order tablets to go to paperless council meetings, discuss the possibility of redeveloping the wayside rest area, work with the HRA regarding the old school site, continue progress on the business park, as well as what city administrator Robin Leslie called, ” a laundry-list of things to deal with.”

Chose to postpone a purchase of a new street sweeper. Street Foreman Mike Pyzick spoke to the council about their street sweeper, which was purchased in 2001. The sweeper had repair costs of $28,000 between 2013 and 2015, and Pyzick is looking at another $17,000 in repairs to get the proper parts of the sweeper repaired. The council chose to delay the purchase of a new sweeper because it was not in the 2017 budget.

The next regular Wells City Council meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m. at the Wells Community Center.