Stearns County has its share of challenges and opportunities to maintain its farmsteads, rural housing and manufactured home parks, while simultaneously providing housing choices for all of its residents. One of these challenges includes a growing demand for affordable workforce housing. Workforce housing is housing that meets the needs of working families and is attractive to new residents locating in rural parts of the County.
Most of the County’s 25 Manufactured Home Parks are located in the rural areas of the County. Many of these Parks are challenged with an aging housing stock, with homes built prior to the enactment of the HUD Code in 1974.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that this aging housing stock is pervasive and has tentacles reaching into other issues. For low-income rural households, the struggle to access safe, quality, affordable housing is real. Incomes are too low and housing options, both homes for purchase or rent, at affordable prices are limited.
Although housing costs are generally lower in rural communities, lower incomes and higher poverty rates make housing options simply unaffordable for many rural residents. Many of these households are faced with higher transportation costs, resulting in more money spent on transportation to travel greater distances to access work and services. Other cost-burdens may be associated with substandard housing. For example, naturally occurring affordable housing can be in extensive need of repairs to meet basic health and safety needs.
In order to sustain the long-term viability of agricultural operations in Stearns County, our communities should ensure access to quality, affordable housing to accommodate farm workers and their families. Local comprehensive plans, zoning regulations and subdivision and land development ordinances can help achieve this objective.
Sustainable design practices are used in developments to minimize impacts to the natural environment, while improving our health and quality of life. The U.S. Green Building Council is an excellent resource to learn more. Examples of these practices include:
Energy Building Practices
Sustainable Site Design Practices