ST. JOSEPH -- The plan to build an affordable housing project in St. Joseph has taken another step forward. The city council voted four-to-one Monday night to approve a Tax Increment Financing District for Sand Properties and their 48-unit apartment building.

Some of the specific details of the TIF still need to be worked out like the exact amount and the length, but it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000. There also has to be a final agreement on who will pay for things like road improvements and the extension of sewer and water to the neighborhood.

The city's support means Sand Properties can now enter into a purchase agreement with Stearns County to buy the land, which has been on the forfeiture list for a number of years. The land sale is for $25,000.

The property was previously planned to be an apartment building in an area called Liberty Point, just to the south of County Road 75 south of Kwik Trip and Neighbors Route 75. Developing the area has been prohibitive because of the current lack of city services.

Sand Properties spokeswoman Megan Carr says they will apply for HUD assistance through the Minnesota Housing Finance District in June, and if they get that approval, they expect to break ground in the fall of 2020.

Carr says they estimate one-bedroom apartments will rent for between $632 and $735 a month, with higher rates for two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.

Sand previously tried to build a similar affordable housing project in Cold Spring in 2016, but eventually pulled the project.

Stearns County Housing and Redevelopment Authority spokesman Neil Fortier spoke in favor of the project saying the HRA has closed their waiting list for several years now due to the fact that 1,000 people are currently waiting for affordable housing in the area.

The St. Joseph city council is expected to finalize the specifics of the TIF district at their May 20th meeting.

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