North Hickory Street

Plans would replace a home on North Hickory Street with transitional housing.

City officials say there’s undoubtedly a need for affordable housing in Chaska, especially for people at risk of homelessness.

That's why the council recently voted to support new transitional housing in downtown Chaska.

The 5-0 vote came a year after developers, who are partnering with the nonprofit Launch Ministry, drafted a concept plan approved by the council last May. The project involves the redevelopment of the southwest corner of County Road 61 and Hickory Street.

The estimated $3 million project didn’t receive state funding last year, but it does have $400,000 from a federal bank grant. That funding gap will hopefully be closed thanks to council support, said Bob Roepke,a  former Chaska mayor and community development consultant.

“I’m feeling really good about the application,” Roepke said, referring to a state grant they’re preparing to apply for in July.

Developers will find out if they receive that money in November or December, Roepke said. The project didn’t earn the grant last year, but since the need for affordable housing is growing, Roepke said, he’s more confident in this year’s outcome.

Currently in the project’s plan is a tax increment financing, or TIF, funding model specifically for affordable housing.

To live in the units, residents need to meet certain criteria based on median area income. The concept plan hasn’t deviated much from its original proposal, city officials said.

The council confirmed the 18-unit building would cater to young adults, ages 18 to 29, who are coming out of, or at risk for, homelessness. But housing isn’t the only amenity.

“It’s a program, not just a place to live. It’s a program to help lift them out of homelessness and get them back into the mainstream again,” Councilor Mike Huang said. “There’s a deep need for this in our community.”

Launch Ministry, based in downtown Chaska, would offer programs specific to young adults in such situations.

“It’s supportive housing,” Roepke said. “The key is for people coming out of homelessness, or threatened by homelessness, (to) provide them support so they can create some stability in their life.”

Councilor Taylor Hubbard said when she thinks of projects like this, she thinks of a young relative who she called “at-risk," who could benefit from a similar place to live.

“To be able to have something like this provided is a stepping stone for someone who really wants to do this 'adulting' work,” she said. “I think it's really our duty to help make that happen and make this a possibility because these young adults deserve the dignity of this and I want to be a part of that.”

Councilor McKayla Hatfield agreed.

“It’s contributing to the community and these brilliant people that just need this gap filled,” she said. “I’m happy to support it again.”

Roepke said there’s a possibility a few units could cater to veterans, but developers haven’t finalized that yet.

He said overall, the units will hopefully “serve as a foundation for the development of the community.”

“Imagine the lack of hope and amount of fear that exists for those young people, and often in no part of their own doing,” Roepke said. “This addresses that fear and provides some opportunity to build hope for a good future.”

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