Renting isn’t getting any cheaper for the nearly 21 percent of Otter Tail County renters, according to a study released Wednesday by the Minnesota Housing Partnership.

Inflation adjusted rental costs have risen by 12 percent in Otter Tail County while renter incomes have dropped by 15 percent from 2000 to an average of 2009-2013 figures, according to the study.

The result: Nearly one out of every four renters in Otter Tail County spends more than half of their income on housing, the report found. Forty-three percent of renters spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs.

Fergus Falls has about 2,000 households that rent, which accounts for about 30 percent of all local households, according to a 2014 housing study.

The foreclosures and lower incomes caused by the economic downturn in 2008 led to a much larger pool of renters, Minnesota Housing Partnership Research and Communications Director Leigh Rosenberg said.

The increase in renters was not balanced out with an increase in rental housing, as new construction of rental units largely stagnated until about 2010, according to Rosenberg.

At the local level, one step city’s can take is to fund a Housing Redevelopment Authority via a tax levy in order to provide assistance to low-income households, Rosenberg said.

That’s a step Fergus Falls has already taken.

The Fergus Falls Housing Redevelopment Authority receives funds from a tax levy per approval of the City Council.

At the state level, Rosenberg said the Minnesota Housing Partnership is looking for bond funds to go toward housing projects.

“We typically will look for strong appropriations for housing during bonding,” she said. “We’ve had strong efforts to increase resources available for housing related to bonding. Especially since housing is really com infrastructure and serves people and whole communities and keeps them vibrant and afloat.”

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