- Created: Tuesday, 21 July 2020 13:45
- Written by Andy Birkey
Housing is hard to find right now in the Borderland, but the reuse of the Alexander-Baker building in International Falls will provide 30 units of affordable housing in the community, and preserve a building with rich history.
“This project will provide housing for our teachers, our health care workers, our retail and tourism folks, and other workers looking for an affordable place to live,” said Isaac Meyer of Kootasca Community Action. “And the benefits will be long-term. As our kids grow up and take their first jobs after graduation, they’ll have an affordable place to rent in our community.”
International Falls and the surrounding communities haven’t seen new rental housing development in a generation -- almost 40 years. And that’s a huge problem for the area’s potential new workers.
People have been turning down jobs. In fact, the International Falls Journal has recounted several stories of workers considering a move to the area, but they couldn’t find a home.
Even if folks can find a place to live, they’re still feeling the pinch because few renting options mean higher rents. Currently, 51 percent of renters in Koochiching County, and 42 percent of renters in Itasca County are experiencing cost burden, according to Minnesota Housing Partnership’s State of the State’s Housing report. Cost burden means people sacrifice food, medicine, and education in order to make the rent.
New housing will help bring rents down, and provide more options for housing.
The historic Alexander Baker building was a former school and has remained a landmark in International Falls for more than 100 years. The 30 affordable housing units will be created from the old classrooms.
The Koochiching County Housing Collaborative, with assistance from Minnesota Housing Partnership, has submitted an application to the Minnesota Housing Finance Authority to secure funding to complete the project. The decision on that funding will be announced later this year.
“We’re hopeful that MHFA will approve the project,” said Ward Merrill, Executive Director of Citizens for Backus/AB. “Especially given the huge level of support we have received from the community.”