ST. CLOUD -- Members of the St. Cloud City Council want to make housing more affordable in the city. During their work-study session on Monday night, they had an hour-long discussion on the topic.

George Hontos says you can't talk about affordable housing without talking about the low-income levels in the community. Mike Conway says he's not interested in more rental units, but more interested in individual homes.

Steve Gottwalt is the Government Affairs Consultant for the Central Minnesota Builders Association. He says this is a conversation all area communities need to be having. As for St. Cloud, he says the focus shouldn't just be on building new homes.

We have not talked enough about how we renovate existing housing.  We have some older neighborhoods in St. Cloud and other communities that are really in need of some renovation that would not only help improve those neighborhoods but would also provide a ready stock of affordable housing.

Carol Lewis says cities need to lobby state and federal lawmakers for help.  Gottwalt says cities can look at fees they are charging, as well as state lawmakers addressing new mandates.

You've got the cost of acquiring a lot and making it buildable, you've got the cost of permits and utility hookups, mandated fees and other things that go into a house, the cost of materials, the cost of labor.

Gottwalt says the CMBA would like some legislation to allow younger people to be on the job site for on-the-job training. He says everything from the energy code, electrical code, and plumbing code are piling on things that add to the cost of building a new home.

Conway says the city should make investments in public infrastructure to encourage new developments. City Economic Development Director Matt Glaesman says three years ago there was a glut of 1,000 vacant residential lots available, but now the city is down to just a one-year supply, so the city does need to look for more potential areas to prep for development.

St. Cloud has a goal of building 7,000 new homes in the next 10 years, with 775 of them being single-family homes for sale, 500 multi-family homes for sale, 2,400 being market-rate rental units, 1,500 being affordable rental units, and 750 being subsidized rental units.

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