Housing resources promoted through websiteWhen it comes to residential development, Woodbury is somewhat of a changing landscape. New home construction has slowed, partially by design, and partially due to the market.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
When it comes to residential development, Woodbury is somewhat of a changing landscape.
New home construction has slowed, partially by design, and partially due to the market.
Many of the neighborhoods that sprouted up in the 1990’s are no longer considered young housing stock. The city has also seen its fair share of home foreclosures. Since Jan. 1 of this year, there have been more than 285 sheriff’s sales, according to county records. In all of 2007 the city saw 225.
For all those reasons and more, the city has recently created some avenues of community outreach to address the current housing issues in the community.
In late October the city launched a new section on its website for residents housing-related issues.
The section includes resources for residents facing foreclosures as well as information on the city’s housing and redevelopment programs and policies, and the city’s new loan programs that will be offered for eligible homeowners beginning in 2009.
The new on-line housing section was created by the city’s new housing specialist Karl Batalden.
The Woodbury City Council officially appointed Batalden to the position this summer, which city administrator Clint Gridley said was appropriately timed, but coincidental, given the current situation of the housing market that is effecting all areas of the country.
“When the (housing specialist) position was created in 2007 we did not envision the housing crisis,” Gridley said. “Our focus was more on affordable housing, the rising cost of housing and making sure that we had places for our workforce to live.”
But as the city administration found its candidate to fill the position, Gridley said it was becoming apparent that the job itself would be bigger than the description it entailed.
“As we brought (Batalden) aboard, clearly some of the focus has changed to try to address the foreclosure situation,” Gridley said.
Batalden, a former government and community relations officer for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, has made one of his first tasks to head an in-house city task force to address home foreclosure issues. Department heads from public safety, community development, public works and administration make up the task force, which Gridley said is addressing a myriad of issues related to the recent increase in homes that are left vacant due to foreclosure.
“The blessing we’ve had in this position was created and filled at a time when our need to focus on housing issues are most critical,” Gridley said.
Loan programs debut Jan. 1
Batalden, who holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said he is also in the midst of promoting the city’s new home loan programs, which will be available to eligible homeowners beginning Jan. 1.
Two of the programs are home improvement oriented. The Woodbury Home Improvement Fund and the Woodbury Goes Green Loan program will allow qualified homeowners to enter into a loan to aid in improvements to their homes at a low interest rate.
The objective of the programs is remove blight, encourage home renovation and increase home values in the city, the program description states.
“All of these programs have certain income limits, but it’s a really nice tool we have for people who, because of their income situation, might not otherwise be able to make these improvements,” Batalden said.
Also advertised on the city website’s Housing section are a first-time home ownership program and a foreclosure purchase program.
Batalden stressed that the programs are strictly loan based and are made possible by the city’s recent creation of the Woodbury Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“It’s important to remember that these are loans, not grants,” he said. “It’s not the city giving money to people, it’s an HRA-established loan program that is meant to use as an incentive for homeowners to increase our housing stock.”
Gridley said he believes listing of the municipal loan programs and the other resources on the city’s website will help Batalden serve as the city’s point person on the most pertinent housing issues affecting the community.
“One of our big focuses has been on affordable housing, Gridley said. “Coming away from that experience we learned that if we were going to do affordable housing right and be consistent with our goals, we knew we needed to dedicate an experienced, full-time person to the undertaking. That’s what we have with Karl.”
For more information on the city’s new foreclosure assistance and homeowner loan programs, go to www.ci.woodbury.mn.us. Follow the Planning, Zoning and Inspection link and click on “Housing.”