Study looks at income, housing

FAIRMONT – A recent study by Community Partners Research shows some interesting trends in Fairmont: The population might be declining, but its housing needs are increasing; its rich are getting richer, but half the people spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Steve Griesert was in town Monday to discuss the study’s findings with the City Council. His company has completed two such studies in the past for the city, in 2003 and 1996, both of which helped Fairmont prioritize necessary improvements to its housing stock and promote local strengths, said Mike Humpal, Fairmont city administrator.

The 117-page document is filled with useful statistics, from demographics and projections, to data on existing housing, an inventory of rental housing, and an analysis of employment and local economic trends. It also includes findings and recommendations and comparisons of Fairmont to similar Minnesota cities.

Following is some of the information presented Monday:


and Projection Data

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, both Fairmont and Martin County suffered population losses from 2000 to 2010. Fairmont lost 2.1 percent, 223 people; Martin County lost 4.6 percent, 962 people.

Broken down by age groups, it’s easy to see where the local losses are happening in Fairmont. Not as many babies are being born, compared to a decade ago, a decline apparent from ages 0-19. An increase is then seen with 20- to 34-year-olds living in Fairmont, but then a sharp decrease is present in people ranging in age from 35 to 44. Some population gains were made with 45- to 74-year-olds, but the number of local people age 75-84 dropped. Surprisingly, the 85-plus age range saw gains.

The overall drop in population is expected to continue into the future, with the state demographer projecting Fairmont’s population will decline from its most recent count of 10,666, to 10,310 by the year 2020.

The last census shows, however, that Fairmont gained 110 households since the 2000 census.

“Household sizes continue to decrease,” Griesert said, explaining that the average household size in Fairmont is 2.14 persons.

Data also show the number of people who own houses in Fairmont dropped by 130 from the 2000 census to the 2010 census, while the number of renters increased by 240.

On a plus side, statistics from the 2011 American Community Survey show income growth in Fairmont and Martin County over the past decade, especially for those in the highest income ranges.

Fairmont’s median household level increased by about 21 percent, from $33,700 to $40,700 – that’s still nearly $18,000 lower than the state median.

The housing study warns, though, that the figures for median-income housholds can be deceptive: “In general, renter households tend to have incomes that are well below the overall median levels, while home owners tend to be above the medians … In 2011, the median income level for owner households in Fairmont was $59,500. The estimated median household income for renters in 2011 was only $20,050.”

The housing study also notes there are 1,457 households – almost a third of the city – with an annual income below $25,000.

Existing Housing Data

The housing study takes a close look at newly built homes and aging neighborhoods.

In a “windshield survey” of Fairmont’s housing conditions, Griesert reported 32 percent of homes needed no work, 42 percent needed minor rehab, 23 percent needed major repair and 3.6 percent should be demolished.

“We see this all over Minnesota and the five-state area,” Greiser said. “Homes are wearing out. They’re becoming functionally obsolete.”

Fairmont has seen new housing construction in recent years. Since 2000, 239 housing units have been built, which includes projects at Goldfinch Estates and the Village Co-op.


Griesert recommended the city focus on maintaining and improving its existing housing stock, noting Fairmont has $482 million in real estate that’s already established. That said, he also encouraged the city to make a goal to have 12 to 16 new owner-occupied units built a year.

For rentals, he suggested the city try to help with the addition of 130 to 160 units in the next five-year period. Several of these units should be for student housing; 30-35 should be subsidized; 16-20 should be affordable; and 78-97 should be market rate for general occupancy.

Other suggestions included:

o Creating a mixed-use commercial/housing project in Fairmont’s downtown.

o Developing an inventory of available lots.

o Developing a rental inspection/regulation program.

“This is a great community. You have a lot going for you,” Griesert said.