It’s everywhere – housing shortages. What can be done about it? How does a city find solutions? Those are all questions being asked by the Lanesboro Housing Solution Group, a team that has been formed in Lanesboro that are putting their heads together to come up with a strategic plan to ease the housing shortage in town.
Lead person of the group, Phil Dybing, who is also on the EDA, explains how the group came into existence. “In 2019, a representative of the Minnesota Housing Partnership visited the Lanesboro EDA to talk about their program to help Cities identify housing needs and use a disciplined approach to formalize the process within communities. The Minnesota Housing Institute is a program they offer to assist Communities to identify and develop plans to identify Housing gaps for all demographics and plan for the future,” states Dybing.
“We had to apply to get selected, so we did and were selected along with other towns in Greater Minnesota, including Lewiston, Owatonna, Preston and Dodge Center. Normally they hold sessions at a local hotel/conference center but due to COVID, set up this year’s program online. The project kicked off earlier this year and we are about halfway through the 18 month program,” notes Dybing.
When asked why the Lanesboro Housing Solution Group was formed, Dybing replied, “It was formed due to the severe lack of available housing in Lanesboro, which has been identified by the Lanesboro EDA as an impediment to economic growth. If we don’t have housing for workforce and new residents, it is hard to grow business,” he explains.
As in many cities, the housing needs are extensive and diverse. “Lanesboro has needs across the entire housing spectrum, from rental to entry level homes, to single family homes to retirement homes (one level patio style homes) to senior housing/assisted living options,” says Dybing.
Dybing became the director of the group due to his involvement with the EDA and as he was the person who wrote the request to be included in the Minnesota Housing Partnership program. There are several area residents in the Lanesboro Housing Solution Group with different backgrounds and experience.
“I chose a variety of people to be a part of the team, looking for a cross section of representation,” states Dybing.
Members of the Lanesboro Housing Solution Group are: Desiree Borth-Ferrie – Business Background; Jeff Brogle – Business background – Real Estate; Cathy Enerson – CEDA/Fillmore County/Lanesboro/EDA; Phillip Dybing – EDA/Lanesboro Housing Development; Joe Goetzke – City Council; Ben Gorman – Commonweal Theatre; Eliza Mitchell – Lanesboro Housing Development; Michele Peterson – City of Lanesboro; Elliot Riggott – Lanesboro Public Utilities; Matt Schultz – Superintendant Lanesboro Schools; Wyatt Seablom – Local Business; Warren Kramer – team liaison from the Minnesota Housing Institute; Harlan Buckalew – Minnesota Housing Institute; and Courtney Overby – Minnesota Housing Institute.
The Lanesboro Housing Solution Group tries to meet at least monthly as a team, and each quarter they have a formal meeting with representatives from all of the other towns participating in the program.
When asked what are the short-term and long-term goals of the Lanesboro Housing Solution Group, Dybing provided a detailed response. “Short term goals is to solidify and concur on a problem statement, so we can build coalition within key stakeholders in the town. The coalition is important to make sure everyone understands what we are doing, why and what our goals are,” he explains.
“Long term goals are to identify areas where we can add new housing options, and due to the geography of Lanesboro and what is available, will likely lead to at least one new housing development and secondly, identify areas near downtown for denser housing options, which would be new construction,” states Dybing.
With the program beginning in July of 2019, there are five basic modules for the Minnesota Housing Institute that the group focuses on. These five modules are:
1) Groundwork – getting organized and identifying needs
2) Communication – working together and identifying key stakeholders in the community
3) Collaboration – how to engage the community and get buy in (we are in this module currently, and this article is a part of that process)
4) Development – keying in on more detailed housing needs with specifics
5) Financial resources – How can we get this done and finance the project(s)
“Our end goal will be to work in as many aspects of our general housing shortage as possible, but specifically we are looking at one area to develop for around 20 new housing units to be built. The parcel is currently undeveloped but within City limits and can be serviced by all City Utilities,” Dybing states.
The Lanesboro Housing Solution Group would like to hear from the community and look forward to hearing residents thoughts and opinions on housing needs.
“I need and want input and participation from Community members that want to be involved in the housing growth of Lanesboro from a local level,” notes Dybing.
Get involved, let the group know what you think Lanesboro needs for housing and what you would like to see brought forth as housing options.
“Residents can show support by asking questions, providing input and insight, and spreading the word with their friends and neighbors. Even in a community as small as Lanesboro, communication and understanding is key to gain consensus on this issue,” states Dybing.