What the Eviction Moratorium ending means locally

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

With the Eviction Moratorium ending soon, the Montevideo-American News reached out to the Executive Director for Chippewa/Yellow Medicine County HRA, Cathy Jakobs, to ask what that could mean for housing in the local area. The following are the answers she provided.

How is the housing situation looking for Montevideo area specifically?

The most recent housing study (2019) shows the need for more rental housing for families of all income categories. The new apartments being built will help the rental shortage and those moderate to high-income families. However, the proposed monthly rent rates will not be affordable for the low-income families we serve.

Families with children have an extremely difficult time finding suitable, affordable housing not only in Montevideo but throughout the county. We are seeing many of the rental homes in the area have aged and need updates to the windows and siding because of lead-based paint regulations. The lack of 3- and 4-bedroom apartments/townhomes for the low to median-income families forces applicants to shop outside the area for housing. Montevideo has a sufficient number of 1- and 2-bedroom units and vacancy rates are at an all-time low with waiting lists for all size rental units.

The public may be surprised to learn that 49.8% of HRA-assisted families in Chippewa County are on a fixed income receiving either social security or SSI benefits. Most of these live in 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. An additional 34.6% of the HRA clients are employed but fall below the median income range for the area.

Is there more crisis in the area?

If you watch any news broadcast, you know that the housing shortage is a nationwide issue. Other HRA offices throughout Minnesota share our concerns. The trend seems to be that the younger generation prefers to rent instead of buying because it gives them the flexibility to relocate and explore until they find their “dream” job. This along with elderly parents or widows seeking accessible/one level, maintenance-free living who have moved off the family farm, want to be closer to their children and grandchildren, or closer to specialized medical facilities are among the majority of individuals taking advantage of rental properties.

Has there been an increased number of requests for HRA assistance in the area during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Surprisingly our HRA, along with others throughout the state have not seen an increase in rental assistance applications during the pandemic. If anything, the number of applications has decreased. It is unclear as to why, but one assumption is that the additional unemployment benefit has boosted incomes over our income limits. Another assumption is other federally funded pandemic related housing assistance being offered.

Do you foresee more requests locally for assistance with the moratorium ending?

With the eviction moratorium ending I believe the HRA office will have an increase in rental assistance applications from families who are already living in rental housing.

The Chippewa County HRA has housing vouchers available (also known as section 8 rental assistance) for families who qualify.