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County sells Hocking's Acres to HRA for housing development

After some debate, the Hubbard County Board agreed to sell 11 tax-forfeited lots in Hocking's Acres to the Hubbard County Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA) for $1 each.

Commissioners discussed HRA's proposal at last week's meeting.

Originally, the lots were going to be included in the county's Oct. 13 land sale.

HRA plans to develop 11 homes for low- to moderate-income families over a five-year period. They will construct two homes per year, unless the market dictates increased production.

The proposed homes will be slab on grade, three bedrooms, two baths with attached two-car garages. Based on market conditions, HRA believes this type of home will sell for $150,000 to $155,000.

Ownership of the new homes would be restricted to households whose gross annual income is at or below 80 percent area median income. For 2017, the maximum household income for a family of four is $64,300, according to HRA's affordable housing plan.

Special assessments totalling $165,000 are owed to the city for these Park Rapids lots. County Commissioner Char Christenson explained that HRA agreed to pay $53,050, and the City of Park Rapids assured her they would forgive the remaining delinquent taxes since the lots would be returning to the tax roll.

There is a need for affordable housing, Christenson continued, and HRA completed similar projects in Brainerd and Blackduck.

"It makes good sense financially if they follow through on their plan," said County Commissioner Dan Stacey.

Board Chair Vern Massie said, "I understand what they're trying to do, but how do we justify it to taxpayers, especially if someone is willing to pay $2,000 or $3,000?"

An adjoining landowner was interested in purchasing the back lot for additional privacy, said Hubbard County Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier.

Christenson noted the lots have stood empty since 2011.

"These lots have been up for sale several times," agreed Lohmeier.

"It's really simple. This is a sure bet," Stacey said of HRA's proposal.

Christenson made the motion to sell all 11 lots to HRA. The board unanimously approved.