The City of St. Joseph has a wonderful opportunity in front of it.
Now it’s time for the St. Joseph City Council, the St. Joseph Area Chamber of Commerce, the College of St. Benedict and the local realtor’s association to step up to the plate and put their money where their mouth is.
All have verbally supported the opportunity the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership has to apply for state funding to rehabilitate houses that once were used for student rentals.
These houses, left vacant when CSB changed its on-campus living requirements, are becoming a blight to the city. Some are larger structures, once outfitted to house several students. They are not in the best of shape and not configured for single-family housing.
The CMHP is intending to apply for state funding to rehab as many as five of those houses. It’s estimated there are between 10 to 15 of these houses in the city. The application deadline is July 11.
The CMHP’s application would look stronger to the state if the local entities above would not only be verbally supportive of the rehab project, but if they would put up some money as well to show their support.
We’re not talking about a lot of money, either. A total of $50,000 is the CMHP’s goal. That means if the city, chamber and realtors put up $5,000 each, and CSB and it’s counterpart down the road, St. John’s University, added an additional $20,000 each, the goal would be exceeded.
And the money doesn’t need to be delivered in cash. According to local realtor Cory Ehlert, who is working with the CMHP to secure funding, “participation funds” could be offered as support. That means, for instance, the city could reduce some of the fees likely to be incurred in the rehab process, such as inspection fees and costs for building permits or more.
CSB/SJU is being asked for more money because it’s a tax-exempt entity and the institution and its 4,000 students benefit greatly from the city for a variety of services, not the least of which are police and fire department protection.
With these vacant houses rehabilitated, everyone wins. Neighborhoods will look nicer. They will attract new residents who will pay taxes. Those new homeowners will bring money to businesses right here in St. Joseph.
A little money invested now will bring returns down the road. And if this initial phase is completed, maybe all of the vacant rentals will one day be able to be resurrected.