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There’s no place like home …

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Mar 14, 2021

I once heard an expert in economic development say one of the most important concerns in keeping a small town healthy and not having the town fade away is having good, quality, affordable housing.

Oh, sure, there are plenty of other items that make a town “attractive” for people to come and live there. (And by attractive I don’t mean pretty, I mean attracting people to come live there.)

Good schools, parks, medical care, amenities like bike and walk paths and maybe a fitness center or golf course or other entertainment venues are all important.

And, certainly, there should be jobs available.

However, good housing was this expert’s No. 1 item for having any potential growth for a small town.

Too often, he said, the housing availability in small towns includes too many small older homes with single car garages and not many updates.

That is why it is encouraging to see the stories in the Faribault County Register recently about all the housing project plans going on in the county.

Blue Earth completed the first stage of its new housing development, called Prairie View Subdivision, two years ago. Now, the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is getting things started with the construction of a multi-family twin home on the first lot going into the new area.

In fact, it is nearing completion and will be available for rent. One side of the duplex is already spoken for.

In the meantime, the construction company APX of Mankato, is purchasing all six lots in the cul-du-sac at the new subdivision and will be building three of the same kind of multi-family houses (duplexes). Each duplex will fill two of the lots.

The Blue Earth HRA is not stopping there. They are having APX Construction build another two multi-family homes for the HRA, a duplex on Fourth Street and a four-plex on Eighth and Rice streets.

If that is not enough, the HRA is looking at creating more building lots in town, and APX Construction is working on creating a 20 unit apartment complex.

Now we are having stories about the city of Wells also having several new housing development areas being created.

As a story this week explains, there are four new privately owned subdivisions in the works. Granted, they are not all huge – one is just a large lot being subdivided into two – but still, there is the potential for a lot of housing creation to be done in Wells over the next few years.

The Wells HRA owns a fifth housing development, City Center Subdivision, on the site of the former United South Central School. They are selling the building lots, and have sold two of the lots to someone who is going to build a twin home on the property.

And, like in Blue Earth, the Wells HRA is also contracting with a Mankato construction company, this time Wilcon, to build a duplex on two of the lots in the new development area, just to help get things going.

If the first one is successfully sold, the HRA plans to build another, city administrator CJ Holl says.

All of this emphasis on housing is predicated on recent housing studies which have shown a need to boost the amount of good, quality, affordable housing in the area.

Houses in Blue Earth are selling quickly, when they do come up for sale. There also is a lack of rental property in the town as well.

That can put a crimp on local businesses efforts to attract employees to come work here, when they take a look at what is available to rent or buy.

There also seems to be an influx of persons interested in moving to Blue Earth for no particular reason, or a rather unusual reason.

Most people would move here because they found a job in Blue Earth or nearby, or had relatives living here, or they once lived here and now they are retired and moving ‘back home.’

However, there seems to be quite a few folks who have moved to Blue Earth for reasons unknown. Maybe they liked the name of the town, or the location in the state, or because they found it to be a pretty darn nice small town.

Perhaps they were looking around southern Minnesota for the perfect house for them, and found it in Blue Earth.

Maybe they just wanted to live here because they were big fans of the Green Giant. No, that probably was not it. More than likely it was the fact it is a nice place to live.

I know. I am one of those people. Fifteen years ago or so, my wife and I chose to move here. Sure, there was a job here, and that was a big part of the reason to come to Blue Earth, but still we had a choice of where to move – or not to move at all.

At the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

It still does.