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Aging population may struggle to make home repairs

A Hubbard County comprehensive housing study shows that a high number of single-family homes in the county needs rehabilitation work and the household age is increasing.

Community Partners Research, Inc., out of Faribault, prepared the study, which includes information about the county, with more detail about Park Rapids, Akeley, Laporte and Nevis.

Michele Mahowald, Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) executive director, said those who have been working with HRA knew about the need for rehabilitation work.

"We knew what the need was here, but we needed something in writing," Mahowald said, "especially for grants ... and other types of funding."

"In all of the communities, the percentage of older housing units is above average," according to the executive summary of the study.

It is also important for developers wanting to work in the area to know what the housing situation is, Mahowald said.

"We had our two-year work plan developed because we actually did know the need, but this just makes that stronger," she said.

The condition of single-family properties was actually a little worse than Mahowald thought.

Some of demographic information included in the study was more surprising to her, though.

The projected change in households between 2005 and 2015 shows an increase of 588 households within the 55-64 age range and an increase of 262 households within the 65-74 age range, according to a draft of the housing study. It also shows a projected decrease of 97 households within the 45-54 age range.

HRA will be looking into how to help the aging population that needs housing rehabilitation work done, she said.

HRA had been working on a two-year work plan for a while, and with the passing of the Hubbard County levy in December 2007, the housing study was able to be prepared, Mahowald said.

The study included multiple goals:

- Provide updated demographic data

- Provide an analysis of the current housing stock and inventory

- Determine gaps or unmet housing needs

- Examine future housing trends that the area can expect to address in the coming years

n Provide a market analysis for housing development

- Provide housing recommendations and findings

To prepare the study, data was collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Hubbard County records and interviews among elected officials and community leaders, among other sources.

The housing study came to fruition from a partnership of several entities donating to the study, including Headwaters Regional Development Commission ($7,500), Minnesota Housing Partnership ($10,000), Northwest Minnesota Foundation ($15,000) and HRA ($10,625).

A public meeting is scheduled for noon on Oct. 30 at the Hubbard County Courthouse.

"It's a time to present (the study) to the community so that they have an understanding," Mahowald said.

She hopes the final draft of the housing study will be ready by the public meeting.