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Report: County incomes not keeping up with rent

A rent sign is posted outside a house on East Fourth Street. Rental prices are up 6 percent since 2000 in Goodhue County, while the median income of renters has dropped 31 percent, according to a Minnesota Housing Partnership study. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

Nearly a quarter of renter households in Goodhue County spend half or more of their income on housing, putting families at risk of being unable to afford food and other basic needs, according to a new report by the Minnesota Housing Partnership.

A two-bedroom apartment in the county costs around $754 a month, more than the $620 a household could affordably spend at the median renter income of $24,783, according to data compiled in MHP’s 2015 County Profiles report.

Renter incomes have fallen 31 percent in Goodhue County since 2000, while inflation-adjusted rent prices have risen 6 percent during the same time period, the report states. Median renter income has dropped statewide by 17 percent.

“The affordability gap is getting huge,” said Joe Wheeler, CEO of Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Compounding the problem is that more people are choosing renting over home buying in response to the economic hardships of the 2000s, causing “extremely low” vacancy rates, Wheeler said.

At the same time, federal funding for affordable housing development and SEMMCRHA programs such as Section 8 rental assistance has been cut.

“The message has been we need to do more with less. Well, now the less is so less that it’s very difficult to get something done,” Wheeler said.

Goodhue County ranks 40th out of 87 counties in the report for availability of affordable housing, with 40 suitable units for every 100 low-income renters.

New construction of rental housing in greater Minnesota has been slow in in recent years, MHP says. Of the 304 building permits issued in Goodhue County from 2009 to 2014, none were for multi-family properties.

Rental units in the county are also getting old — 28 percent of rental homes were built before 1960, according to the report.

Rent or own

Homeowners — who account for 77 percent of Goodhue County households — face similar hardships as renters. In the $20,000 to $34,999 household income range, almost half of owners are cost burdened, meaning they spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing.

The issue of affordable housing also is of growing concern for the county’s senior population, which is expected to increase 65 percent by 2030.

Around 57 percent of renters and 26 percent of owners are cost burdened out the county’s 4,922 senior-headed households, according to the report.

MHP produces its annual County Profiles report using government census data and research from non-profit groups. The organization’s mission is to promote affordable housing policy and advocate for low-income residents.

The report can be viewed online at

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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