In April, the Minnesota Housing board meeting included an overview of the overhauled Minnesota Housing website, further impacts of sequestration on HUD, and the closing of HUD's multifamily office in Minnesota. Finally, the board approved awards of funding under the Bridges program and waived the $1 million maximum award for the St. Paul Old Home Plaza project.
A more user friendly website
The board was treated to an overview of the overhauled Minnesota Housing website. This reworking was designed to make materials much easier to find for different audiences. The word on the street about the old site design, said Communications Director Megan Ryan, was that it was "designed to inflict pain." The new site is much simpler too; the number of web-pages was reduced from 380 to 101. Ryan added that the site receives about 1000 daily visitors, with the accessing of first-time homebuyer information the most popular use. A large number of users also come to access information on rental opportunities so the Agency has provided links to sources of consumer information on rental housing and emergency shelters.
More sequestration impacts revealed and the relocation of a local HUD office
Commissioner Tingerthal updated the board on the federal sequestration and HUD. She said that HUD offices will be closed for 10 days during the year in order to reduce costs for the federal government. In a related move, Tingerthal said, the multifamily office of HUD in Minnesota will be closed this fall with Minnesota loans picked up by HUD's regional office in Chicago. Tingerthal promised to keep the board posted on any impact these changes may have to the Agency's portfolio.
Awards under the Bridges program
While it was a light agenda, the board did approve, subject to state appropriations, awards of $5.9 million in funding under the Bridges program. First funded by the legislature in 1991, this program is intended to provide temporary rent assistance to households having at least one member diagnosed with severe mental illness. Households pay 30 percent of income for rent. Agency staff reported that 47 percent of those assisted were in the Twin Cities (53% in Greater Minnesota); $9,400 was the median annual household income; and 32 months was the average length of the subsidy. Fifteen agencies, serving 58 counties, were awarded grant funds by the Agency. Over the past reporting period, average monthly program costs per household assisted, including rent assistance and administration, ranged from $305 in Willmar to $623 in Dakota County.
A waiver for St. Paul Old Home Plaza project
In awarding second round Low Income Housing Tax Credits for three properties, the Board also approved a waiver of the Agency's $1 million maximum award for the St. Paul Old Home Plaza project. The project will receive $1.023 million in housing tax credits for the 57 unit development by Sand Companies and Aurora St. Anthony Development Corporation. Staff pointed out that seven units will be set aside for long term homeless people with an additional six units subsidized through project based Section 8. Agency policies allow for a waiver of the $1 million cap for projects furthering or including community revitalization, historic preservation, preservation of federally assisted housing, extremely low income affordability, and projects responding to natural disasters or significant proposed expansion in area employment.