The September Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Board meeting covered several important topics. The board was briefed about the administrative complaint being filed with HUD against the Agency and several other entities. The board also approved the 2015 Affordable Housing Plan after review of public comments. Additionally, two pilot programs received funds - one assisting young families and another protecting affordable housing properties. In further news, the Agency withstood their first major computer virus attack.
Complaint being filed against Minnesota Housing, Met Council
Commissioner Tingerthal briefed the board about an administrative complaint being filed with HUD by MICAH and the cities of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center. The complaint is based on the belief that Minnesota Housing, the Metropolitan Council, and the cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis are furthering patterns of segregation through the use of federal funding. Myron Orfield and Michael Allen are representing MICAH and the two cities.
Tingerthal told the board she reached out to the complainant cities to understand their concerns. She said that many individuals in both cities had received home mortgages and home improvement loans in the past five years and had benefited from Neighborhood Stabilization programs administered by Minnesota Housing to help the cities recover from significant numbers of foreclosures. Tingerthal reported that city representatives told her they had no specific concerns about the Agency at this time and agreed to continue to dialogue with the Agency concerning issues raised by the complaint. Tingerthal also commented that should the complaint be formally filed with HUD, there might not be a quick resolution. A similar complaint filed in Maryland in 2011 is still under consideration.
2015 Affordable Housing Plan Approved
The board approved the Agency's 2015 Affordable Housing Plan. Through this plan, Minnesota Housing allocates more than $954 million in grant, deferred loan and loan resources, including $107 million of its own resources.
Staff told the board that in response to public comments, several clarifying statements were added to the August draft. For example, the plan was modified to state that in 2015, the Agency will engage partners regarding how its resources can more effectively serve low income seniors. And in response to comments about challenges in serving immigrants, the plan now states that the Agency will investigate modifying funding criteria to better serve large families.
Several budget changes were also included, based primarily on updated information on year-end program account balances. In addition, the Agency included $2 million in additional investment from "Pool 2" funds into Bridge to Success, a contract-for-deed financing program.
Board members Ken Johnson and Gloria Bostrom both complimented staff on the planning process and staff's receptivity to public comments.
Pilots for young families facing homelessness, preservation of federally assisted housing
In awarding $350,000 to two housing agencies, Minnesota Housing took another step with its Young Families Rental Assistance Pilot. The intent of the pilot is to provide rent subsidies to families headed by people under the age of 24 and who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Evergreen Youth and Family Services in Bemidji and the South St. Paul HRA were the awardees in a competitive application process; nine agencies applied. Staff told the Minnesota Housing board that under this pilot, they hope to better understand how housing stability impacts shelter use by young, high-risk families. Twenty-seven families are expected to participate in the pilot.
Three properties were selected to receive funding for a pilot program called PINES (Preservation: Identify Needs, Exploring Strategy), which focuses on the preservation of federally assisted housing. In the program, the Agency will take a proactive role in reaching out to owners of properties considered at risk of being lost from the affordable housing inventory. Agency staff would then attempt to reach agreements with owners to ensure affordability will be retained. PINES' first awards will help preserve two properties in Minneapolis and a third in Fergus Falls.
Commissioner Tingerthal reported that the Agency had withstood its first major computer virus attack this September. While there was some disruption, the Agency was back in business the next day. Tingerthal remarked that she was very happy that the Agency had not skimped in constructing defenses from such attacks.