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Sheila Kiscaden: Boomers could pave the way on affordable housing

Note: This op-ed is part of a series on affordable housing.

As Rochester and Olmsted County grow and become a destination for those who want to live in a vibrant, healthy community with great services and amenities, we face the challenge of how to provide a full range of housing for all current and future residents.

Realistically, there is no single solution that will meet all the need. We need a coordinated public-private sector approach. Rochester’s growth and new focus on transit-oriented development continues to spur rapid development of market rate apartments, which meet some needs and have some positive impact for opening up affordable options. The City Council can/should develop mixed income housing policies. Developers can/should be encouraged to design and construct affordable starter and mixed income homes. Providing some public subsidies for developers and for individuals and families will continue to be needed.

There is also a hidden opportunity sitting in plain sight.

The most affordable housing is already built in neighborhoods all over Rochester and in the surrounding communities. If we can encourage the baby boomers to downsize from the homes where they raised their children, those homes will become available to today’s working families.

As a ”boomer” myself, I frequently hear my friends lament that there are few housing options available that they find affordable. If they find housing that meets their needs and costs no more (or less) than their current home, they move. No one wants to take out a mortgage or have increased home maintenance in retirement. Build it and the boomers will move …. and a new working family can move in.

Sheila Kiscaden is a former Minnesota State Senator and current Olmsted County Commissioner for District 6.

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The Next Step: What can Rochester do to address affordable housing?