Will Fillmore County be prepared to provide affordable housing during a period which will likely see job growth in the area? Both Destination Medical Center and the potential veterans home in Preston could provide jobs that encourage economic growth and increase housing demand in the region.
DMC will likely provide some demand for housing in Fillmore County, especially for workers who prefer living outside of the city. Workers will weigh the higher dollar cost of housing in Rochester against the cost of travel and time if they choose to live in a smaller town.
The DMC initiative kicked off in 2013 seeks to make Rochester a hub for medical education, research, and innovation. It is expected to drive growth providing over a couple of decades an additional 25,000 to 35,000 jobs. Most of the development will be in a 10 to 12 block radius in downtown Rochester.
In the city of Rochester Comprehensive Plan approved in 2018 it was estimated that 3,300 trips are made by workers from Fillmore County. Planners estimate daily commutes will increase 50% by 2040. Some of these commuters will possibly choose to live in Fillmore County.
DMC growth is also expected to cause a surge in visitors to the region. This is an opportunity for Fillmore County tourism growth, also providing employment possibilities.
If the construction of a veterans home becomes a reality, housing demands will increase in Preston and surrounding communities. The University of Minnesota estimated a 72-bed home may provide about 234 jobs.
The most recent housing study for the county was conducted by Maxfield Research 2009. Neither growth from DMC or a potential veterans home in Preston were in the mix at that time.
Commuters to Rochester are encouraged to “park and ride.” Use of transit vehicles will help alleviate the problem of limited parking space in downtown Rochester. If some parking areas are located in Fillmore County communities, commuters will more likely shop in these communities. If transportation and parking issues are dealt with, making a home in surrounding communities may become more attractive for Rochester workers. Lower cost housing and walkable cities may add to the attractiveness of smaller surrounding communities.
Rochester planners expect growth along the city limits south of Highway 52, especially along CSAH 1. This is already the most traveled county road in Fillmore County. Rochester workers looking for larger lot sizes for their homes may find themselves looking in Fillmore County (Sumner Township) which is just over a mile from Stewartville city limits.
Adequate and comfortable retirement housing is necessary for seniors who prefer the small town living environment.
Preston recently approved an updated housing needs assessment. One interesting fact is that considerably more people commute to Preston for work than the number of people who live in Preston and commute to work outside of Preston. A relatively small number of workers both live and are employed in Preston. Preston’s population growth has been declining since the 2009 housing assessment. The 2009 assessment projected a modest increase in population over this period in the city of Preston.
Factors contributing to the decline include “aging, technology advances in agriculture, longer commute times to Rochester than other communities, and a lack of new housing supply.” The study looks at an opportunity for growth in Preston. This would require more Preston workers to live in Preston, a retention of senior citizens, and an increase in second home and retiree population. These factors could reverse population decline and see population growth and housing unit growth. The study makes it clear that the prospect for growth would require city infrastructure improvements, investments in tourism attractions (riverfront and trails), senior care and retirement housing, industrial park expansion and business investments, and an upgrade to Highway 52 to Rochester.
Maxfield Research did a May 2015 housing needs analysis for Rushford. Over half the total housing demand over a 10-year period is expected to be for senior housing in Rushford. The study notes for-sale houses have been slow since the recession. Existing supply of for-sale houses is low and new housing lots will be needed to support the projected demand. There will be a need for moderate income level homes as well as move-up single family homes.
The 2008 recession slowed housing growth in Fillmore County cities to a near stand still. Chatfield city planner Kristi Clarke said housing growth is just getting back to a normal percentage.
If Fillmore County communities want to take advantage of regional growth factors, it will need to take steps to meet the needs of new workers and their families.
The Fillmore County EDA supports a proposal from Maxfield Research and Consulting to produce a Comprehensive Needs Analysis for all of Fillmore County. Demographic and economic factors and current housing conditions would be examined. The market potential for additional housing development would be studied. Detailed recommendations for housing types needed in the short and long term would be identified. Efforts are under way to obtain sufficient funding to pay for the needs analysis.