The kickoff year of Otter Tail County’s Big Build initiative saw progress and success for housing growth despite a pandemic.

In 2020, $39.3 million in housing investment was added in the county from 656 new and rehabbed housing units, 427 of these being new construction and 229 being rehabbed units. This is progress toward the Big Build’s goal of 5,000 new, preserved, or significantly rehabbed units by 2025, and represents a 19 percent increase in new construction county-wide compared to 2019.

The Otter Tail County Community Development Agency (CDA) launched the Big Build at the end of 2019 as a housing growth and investment initiative. The initiative was created because the expansion of housing opportunities is a county-wide priority to address workforce needs and existing residents’ needs.

“The Big Build initiative is truly an economic engine for the County,” said Otter Tail County Commissioner, Lee Rogness. Rogness explained the domino effect of housing growth on communities. “New twin homes open opportunities for older people to move into lower maintenance, smaller homes, which frees up multiple bedroom homes for families. When single-family homes open, new families can move to our communities. This benefits our schools, helps close the workforce gap, and brings welcome local spending to our business community. Housing growth also provides construction jobs and capacity growth of local tradesmen.”

With more than 1,000 available jobs in the county right now, increasing the housing supply will help meet the needs of newcomers filling these job openings and existing residents seeking more suitable housing options, according to an Otter Tail County news release. The county’s property tax rebate program is one component of the larger Big Build initiative that was put into place to specifically encourage new investment and construction of single and two-family homes. This program also saw success in its first year with 102 applications from across the county. Applicants to the program can receive up to a $10,000 rebate of their future property taxes, up to $5,000 of the county portion of property taxes as well as the city portion of taxes in select communities.

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More information about the Big Build including details on how to apply for the tax rebate program can be found at Applications to the tax rebate program must be submitted before construction begins.

The CDA is a local government agency that is governed by a 9-member board of commissioners. The purpose of the Community Development Agency is to strengthen the communities of Otter Tail County by expanding housing opportunities, promoting business development, and fostering the coordination of public and private resources. The work of the CDA is intended to be complementary, additive, and supportive to existing efforts throughout Otter Tail County.