As I go about my day I often think about what I depend on in my local community to make my life work.
I live and work in Northfield so most of my week is spent right here in Rice County. I get my groceries here, fuel for my car and probably too many treats at convenience stores. My oldest son goes to the high school and my littlest son attends a pre-school here. My doctor is in town, so is my dentist. If I had a medical emergency the ambulance would come from town and so would the Fire Department.
Just this morning I relied on our local police to direct traffic around an accident that had just occurred. I RELY on all of these people throughout my day. That’s the “workforce” that keeps the engine of our community running.
But the reality is, far too many people in our workforce can’t afford to live here. A study done in 2017 by students in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs illustrated that in Northfield there are 6,640 non-residents who work in Northfield but live elsewhere. The study inferred that residents living in Northfield can’t afford to work in Northfield, while non-residents work in Northfield but can’t afford to live in Northfield.
The Humphrey School students interviewed employers and one local senior care center said a human resources position was created to focus on employee retention, which includes helping employees with transportation, child care and housing issues. As one employer summed up “many of our employees work in jobs with pay that makes it hard to afford to live within the community.”
According to the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) having local and affordable housing provides these advantages to our employers: 1) Greater retention –increases stability in the workforce as turnover decreases; 2) Reduces absenteeism, tardiness and stress as commuting time decreases; and 3) Raises morale and increases productivity.
GMHF further makes the case for work force housing with these three points: 1) People who need affordable housing are varied in their backgrounds and are essential members of the local workforce; 2) Housing is fundamental to people becoming successful community members at work, in school, and as public citizens; and 3) The availability of housing, in various configurations and price levels, is important to strong communities.
I’ve been in the “affordable housing” world with Habitat for Humanity and the Northfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority for more than a decade. Very rarely do people say they are AGAINST affordable housing (to my face). But, when decisions are made about WHERE that housing goes, that’s when there’s resistance. Have you heard of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)? NIMBY exist right here in our community. But, I’d encourage people to think about the WHO that you’re saying no to. Instead, let’s say YIMBY (YES In My Back Yard) or WIMBY (Welcome In My Back Yard).
Let’s say welcome to the PEOPLE who are vital to making our community the vibrant community it is.