Housing Boost in Sebeka with Grant Program, Housing Study
Thursday, February 18, 2021
Several homes around the city of Sebeka are getting exterior updates, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While eleven homeowners are active in the maintenance now, a recent housing study completed by Wadena County places a priority on determining how to keep the town’s appearance a priority for the future as well.
Sebeka received a $111,708.86 grant in 2019 as part of the USDA Rural Development Housing Preservation Grant Program, which is designed to help preserve rural housing and remove blight in rural communities.
“This is the first time the city has received funds from the RHPG Program,” said Cheryl Hahn, Sebeka City Administrator. “While the city does have a modest amount of funds available for housing and economic redevelopment, the program essentially did not exist prior to the Rural Housing Preservation Grant opportunity.”
Hahn, who is also on the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors representing the Sebeka/Wadena County area and the Board of Directors for the MN Association of Small Cities (MAOSC) representing Region 4, which includes Wadena County, said Sebeka is very fortunate to have Katie Heppner, the Executive Director of The Economic Alliance, bring this grant to the city’s attention and assist with the application and grant writing process.
Focus on Sebeka Appearance
As part of a countywide Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) project with the University of MN extension, and with support of the Initiative Foundation, Sourcewell and the Economic Alliance, adequate housing was an issue identified as a barrier to business and economic expansion throughout Wadena county.
“Sebeka has a lot of older homes that are deteriorating,” said Hahn. “By providing a means for homeowners to complete necessary exterior maintenance, we are improving the look and appeal of the city.”
A program like this is important to Sebeka because we have a lot of low/very low income households. Receiving such a large grant has a huge impact on Sebeka, said Hahn, because eleven households are able to receive grants of up to $10,000 to make needed repairs to the exterior of their homes, such as roof repairs, window replacement and siding.
“Managing to maintain your home when you are on such a low income is very difficult,” she said. “Some are using the grant funds in combination with personal funds to do a project that was financially beyond their means without the help of the grant, while for others, the grant is paying for the entire project.”
Hahn also indicated the eleven homeowners impacted is a minimum number since some projects may come in under the maximum allowed, so the city is hoping to help even more homeowners with the unused portion of the funds.
In 2020, Wadena County, in partnership with the Economic Alliance, commissioned a county-wide housing study. The Wadena County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Community Partners Research to conduct the study, with a major component being the collection of data on each of the cities in the county and developing recommendations for how to improve the local housing stock. Heppner said a significant number of county businesses rated their satisfaction with the local housing supply as either very dissatisfied or dissatisfied.
“We are hopeful that the data provided in the study will help spur housing development and rehabilitation not just in Sebeka, but in all the communities throughout Wadena County,” Heppner added. “The Economic Alliance has formed a Housing Task Force that will work to implement the recommendations outlined in the Study.”