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Reduced frost depth requirements expected to lower Minnesota housing costs

The revised requirements are expected to reduce home construction costs in Minnesota and make the state more competitive when it comes to attracting new residents.

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A new home under construction in the 6100 block of Marigold Loop South in Fargo. Despite the pandemic, new home starts in the Fargo-Moorhead area were up in 2020 from what they were in 2019. David Samson / The Forum
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MOORHEAD, Minn. — Due in large measure to advocacy from Minnesota state Reps. Kent Eken , DFL-Audubon, and Heather Keeler , DFL-Moorhead, and Paul Marquart , DFL-Detroit Lakes, construction costs for new houses may come down in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

A task force created by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and the Construction Codes Advisory Council have reduced frost depth requirements in the state. Previous frost depth requirements were believed to be making some houses in Minnesota more expensive than their counterparts in bordering states, which both Eken and Keeler believed made the state less attractive to potential home-buyers.

Earlier this year, Keeler and Marquart co-authored HF 1402 , a bill which would have exempted Moorhead, Dilworth and other border cities from Minnesota’s minimum-required frost footing by lowering the requirement to three-and-a-half feet.

“The biggest importance is we want to be competitive in our housing,” Keeler said at a legislative wrap-up discussion in July . “When the exact same home can be $10,000 or more affordable across the river, it makes the decision really difficult.”

While the bill did not pass, it resulted in the creation of the Frost Depth Study Technical Advisory Group, which ultimately decided to reduce frost depth requirements for cities like Moorhead and East Grand Forks from 60 inches to 50 inches.

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Keeler, who represents the largest border city in western Minnesota, said the issue was raised by local residents who found houses on the west side of the Red River to be less expensive. This was due to the fact that in Fargo, frost depth requirements are four-and-a-half feet, whereas Minnesota's were previously five feet. The extra 6 inches could increase the price tag of a new home by as much as $3,000, despite the fact that it did not make houses any safer or more energy-efficient.

“When legislators work with Minnesotans and our state agencies, we can bring good to our communities,” Keeler stated via news release. “This is a prime example. Community members brought an issue to my attention, and I worked extensively with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to find a solution. Thanks to our hard work and collaboration, Moorhead will have competitively affordable houses with our neighbor across the river and more people will be able to make our community their home.”

Eken commented via news release that the change was "badly needed." “It is essential that we do everything we can to attract families and businesses to our region, and working to ease burdensome regulations like this one will go a long way in keeping our community competitive," he stated. "I am thrilled that we were able to make this change happen, and I will continue working to ensure that our region is treated fairly at the legislature.”

Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson credited Eken and Keeler for making the change happen. "Were it not for their efforts, we wouldn’t have convened a Technical Advisory Group to study this issue and find a creative solution,” she said.

Related Topics: REAL ESTATEMINNESOTA
Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over two years, primarily reporting on business news. Reach him at tevanella@forumcomm.com or by calling 701-353-8363. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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