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CDA funds help clean up blight in Farmington

Notice anything missing down Elm Street these days? Like, say, maybe, a big dilapidated house? How about an eyesore over on Main Street? See one fewer home over there?

The answer is yes, in all cases. Yes, a few houses have been demolished lately, thanks to the Dakota County Community Development Agency and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The NSP is a federal funding program that helps communities provide low income housing and housing assistance for residents. Under that umbrella falls a provision that allows the CDA to provide financial assistance to get rid of blighted homes so a better home can be built on that site.

Over the past year, the CDA has helped fund the removal of four such blighted homes in Farmington. The most noticeable was likely the house that sat on the north corner of Seventh and Elm, where tarpaper blew in the breeze and windows were boarded shut.

That's a prime example of what is considered a blight condition. According to CDA communications coordinator Sara Swenson, a structure is considered blighted "when it is detrimental to the safety, health, morals or welfare of the community by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, excessive land coverage, deleterious land use or obsolete layout, or any combination of these factors."

The houses that were torn down in Farmington last year were all bank-owned properties and were in need of repair.

"Blighted structures can be dangerous for the community if they're left alone," said Dan Rogness, CDA director of community revitalization. "And it does affect housing values. When a new home is built on (the property), it will help bring up the neighboring property values as well.

"Those properties that were demolished, they were beyond their useful life. That's why they qualified for the acquisition and demolition piece of the program," he said.

What happens now

Since the properties are now vacant - well, almost vacant, as the Elm Street one will be finished after the spring thaw - the property goes into a land bank of sorts. That means there are four more lots in Farmington that can be held and eventually sold for infill housing. The CDA can wait until the market is a little more favorable to sell the property.

Then, maybe when the market turns, new housing can be built and sold. But since federal NSP money was used to originally purchase the property and demolish the house that had been there, the CDA will be required to offer the new building at a more affordable price. That gives low- to moderate-income residents a chance to invest in a new home, he said.

Other assistance

The CDA has many programs to help residents in hopes that they will be able to hold on to their homes in this tough economy.

According to Swenson, another four bank-owned properties were bought by homeowners using the CDA's stimulus-funded Silver Lining Loan program. Qualified buyers received deferred loans of up to $15,000 under the program, to help with down payment and closing costs.

More than 160 sheriff sales of homes were held in Farmington through last November, Swenson added. She encourages anyone struggling with mortgage payments to contact the CDA's Foreclosure Helpline, 651-675-4555. Trained homeownership specialists will provide advice and referrals to resources, she said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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