The National Apartment Association conducted a survey of government officials, developers, and owners, and found that despite skyrocketing rents, they are unable to build more apartments due to not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) mindsets.

Most communities are sympathetic to affordable housing needs, especially business owners that have a difficult time keeping employees due to high rents and the cost of commuting, and young people that want to stay in the community after school. 

City planners and administrators struggle with community resistance for zoning changes to allow for multi-family homes, which is why they are primarily located in downtown areas, or along major corridors. 

Following NIMBYism as the number one issue affecting multi-family development, was the cost of construction and land availability.  Construction, development, and land costs have escalated tremendously over the past few years, so it isn’t cost effective for developers to build small units. If developers do build affordable housing, they typically require community participation in the form of tax credits, or grants. In many cases it is easier to get a trailer park approved than an apartment complex.

The result of the lack of apartments is higher rents. In Chisago County, there are very few apartment buildings, so most renters live in detached houses, or trailer parks. The average renter is paying between 35% to 50% of their income in rent, which makes it extremely difficult to save money to purchase a home. We see many younger people return home after college or after renting for a while, to live with their parents to save money.

Residents are often more open to luxury apartments than subsidized rentals. There is a need for both in the Chisago Lakes area, as many older homeowners are opting to sell their home, live in the south in the winter and want a place to rent in the summer, or homeownership becomes to difficult to maintain and they need to lower their expenses.

Chisago County and several of our Cities have been working on updating their comprehensive plan to take our future growth into consideration, and there are several proposed developments being discussed. There has been a local housing study which is published on the Chisago County HRA-EDA website, for you to review the current and future housing needs. Your City’s website has a calendar of public meetings to hear about potential new developments.

  Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to ckempenich@cbburnet.com. All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.