Building momentum on affordable housing
Opinion editor’s note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Thanks to strong partnerships, substantial help is on the way to ease the critical affordable housing shortage in the Twin Cities. Finding funding for the projects took significant time and effort, and participants from the private, public and nonprofit sectors merit praise for doing the hard work it took to get here.
As a result, a $75 million project in downtown Minneapolis is opening and significant additional investment is in the pipeline to build or preserve housing in the Twin Cities. Together, the development will produce hundreds of affordable and deeply affordable units for the region.
This week, local politicians and leaders of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis celebrated the opening of the Endeavors Residence, a rare partnership between the public and private sectors that will double the number of affordable housing units the nonprofit operates in downtown.
As the Star Tribune Editorial Board previously noted, Endeavors will serve the neediest of the needy with wraparound health and other services. Its residents will be those who have been homeless with physical or mental disabilities, often single adults and veterans with complicated medical conditions. They are the homeless who are the most difficult to place.
It’s a historic project for Minnesota with the state investing $30 million, a record amount in housing infrastructure bonds. Catholic Charities received donations and foundation grants for the project, but most of the costs are paid by public dollars, including $5 million from Hennepin County and $3.5 million from the city of Minneapolis.
Michael Goar, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said the project is unique because it “brings together housing and health care needs and creates opportunities for the most vulnerable community members to thrive.” He told an editorial writer that Endeavors includes 173 units of deeply affordable housing that brings the charity’s total number of Twin Cities are housing units up to about 1,000. The downtown site will include Endeavors Residence and a recuperative care center for the homeless who are leaving the hospital, a health clinic for the unhoused and the new headquarters for about 200 staff.
In other positive news on the affordable housing front, two other new projects will contribute to the region’s affordable housing pool. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and Bremer Bank recently announced the renewal of a partnership that will help up to 500 low and moderate-income families find homes. Designed to promote affordable homeownership, the program provides low fixed interest rates and mortgages so that families pay no more than 30% of their income on housing.
To date, nearly 500 Twin Cities families have achieved affordable homeownership because of Habitat’s fund. The value of the approved home loans is nearing $100 million. As part of the new push, Bremer’s involvement in purchasing another $125 million in below-market mortgages over the next three years.
And this week, Ramsey County leaders awarded $21.6 million to 16 affordable housing developments. The funding will help build 500 affordable units and preserve an additional 679 existing affordable units in St. Paul, Maplewood, Shoreview, Little Canada and Roseville.
Th $21.6 million includes federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funding, federal housing funds and a new Housing and Redevelopment Authority property tax levy. Among the recipients of the grants are St. Paul Public Housing Authority, Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, Catholic Charities and Habitat for Humanity, as well as some private developers.
In December, the county gave nearly $8 million to fund affordable housing projects, and it still has $17 million in federal COVID-19 funding left to allocate for affordable housing.
“Everyone deserves a safe place to live and call home,” Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity President and CEO Chris Coleman said in announcing the renewal of the Bremer partnership. “Access to secure, affordable homeownership directly translates to successful and healthy communities.”