Rochester Public School Board tables affordable housing decision - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester Public School Board tables affordable housing decision on Gage East property

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Duluth-based company, Center City Housing Corp., has been in talks with the Rochester Public School Board to use the Gage East School property as an affordable housing project. After hearing public testimony on Tuesday, the board has decided to table the decision on whether to approve the sale of the building to its next meeting on May 20.

Monday's meeting opened with community member comments. 

All residents who approached the board were in support of the project. Many voiced the project would fulfill the basic needs of homeless families and youth in Rochester, including more than 300 RPS students.
Those who oppose the project are concerned with safety issues. Supporters voiced that the constant fear of living without shelter is far greater than the fears of those in opposition of the project.

"Every penny or effort we put into preventative or supportive care is only going to benefit our community," said Amy Baker of Rochester. "Some of the fears about security or different parking or traffic is just so small compared to these kids sleeping in tents, hotels or cars."

One former RPS student shared her story of homelessness in order to illustrate how imperative this project is to the community.

"I felt kind of strange because I couldn't even picture myself saying I was homeless," said Brigitte Benyei, now a student at RCTC. "I think it is very important to look past the stereotype and find acceptance in your heart and simply compassion for other people. It's the reality of a lot of nice people in Rochester, Minnesota."

The board applauded Center City Housing Corp for its work on the purchase agreement, and is satisfied with its $1.3 million offer for the property.
Board members hesitated on making a decision Tuesday based on the ongoing concerns within the community and to give two more weeks of public process.

The potential acquisition of the property by Center City Housing will be up for discussion at the city's Planning and Zoning meeting on May 14.  If it passes through that committee, it will be brought to City Council at its June 3 meeting.
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