Strong turnout shows the need is real for rehabilitation efforts in Wadena during a recent Small Cities Development Program meeting where attendees got their hands on applications for the first time.

“It went great,” said Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, Inc., program manager Messina Owings. “I’m up to my eyeballs in apps.”

A flurry of applications already coming in to her desk was a welcome start of the week as she began reviewing those applications and the process towards rehabbing homes, businesses, and rental properties in Wadena. This started over a year ago, when Wadena was surveyed to determine the extent of need in the community.

The process involves those in need submitting applications; review and verification of that information; an on-site inspection of the building to determine scope of the project; bidding of the work; and commencing of rehabilitation. The work is to be completed using 100% forgivable loans to be paid out over seven years. Any work above and beyond the scope of the rehabilitation will be at the cost of the homeowner.

Those in attendance learned about program eligibility requirements, the application process

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and construction steps. Applications are available and are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The term of the program in Wadena lasts through September 2022.

Owings said if all the steps take place without delay, construction could begin this winter. Some of the projects should at least be ready for bidding by late winter to allow for spring construction.

Work that is typically completed using this funding includes windows, doors, roofing, siding and insulation. Improvements that weatherize a building to lower utility costs and improve the looks of the property are important aspects of this project.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) awarded funding in June to the City of Wadena. A total of $681,720 was awarded to complete a minimum of four homeowner projects and nine single family rentals, 18 multifamily units, and five commercial properties. The award also covers the cost of administration for the term of the grant.

Owings said they arrived at those distribution numbers after community surveys and city input on the program. The initial community meeting only brought out one homeowner interested in the residential rehab project. Seeing that eight attended the kick-off meeting to apply, it showed there was a definite interest in the program, Wadena Economic Development director Dean Uselman said. The homeowner projects could be funded up to about $24,000 each. If it turns out there is a greater need in one area of the program, the city has the ability to shift some funds to other areas.

Uselman mentioned the commercial property section as one that drew a lot of interest early on. About a dozen business owners showed up to the kickoff meeting vying to be one of just five commercial projects. Uselman was excited to see the interest from people wanting to improve the looks and efficiency of their buildings. He said it was also encouraging to hear from some in the community who were not applying in an effort to allow someone else in greater need to apply.

“I think there's a lot of genuine selflessness,” Uselman said. He shared that he saw similar actions from the Wadena business community during the CARES Act funding requests.

“So many said, “I’m OK, give it to someone who needs it more than me,” Uselman said.

A number of businesses have recently invested in their businesses structure privately and others that need an extra hand are now able to spruce up their businesses in town thanks to this funding.

Owings said she is involved in projects of this nature within Wadena, Benton, Stearns and Kannabec counties. She’s wrapping up a housing rehabilitation project in Menahga this year.

Questions about the Small Cities Development Program can be directed to Messina Owings, Central Minnesota Housing Partnership, Inc. Program Manager at (320) 258-0681 or mowings@cmhp.net.