The White Pine Apartments, a 35-unit affordable housing complex in Cloquet, Minnesota will provide both workforce and supportive housing in a community that hasn’t seen new construction in many years.
“Finding affordable housing for our citizens has always been a challenge,” Shaff says. “Finding affordable housing that’s safe, sanitary, and decent has been an even bigger challenge.”
Shaff and her colleagues at Cloquet HRA decided it was time to meet those challenges head on after a housing study released in February 2014 forecast the need for 260 new units of rental housing in Cloquet and nearby Scanlon by 2025. Minnesota Housing Partnership provided $10,000 toward the study — and Cloquet HRA leveraged it as a tool to take action. But, when Shaff presented the results of the study to her board, they seemed uncertain about Cloquet HRA’s capacity to address the problem.
During its October meeting, the board of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) covered several critical topics, including $80 million in funding awards from the 2016 Consolidated RFP and proposed changes to the allocation of 4 percent federal housing tax credits.
In her opening remarks, Commissioner Mary Tingerthal informed the board that prior to its November meeting board members were encouraged to participate in a tour of the nearly completed Catholic Charities Higher Ground project. After the tour, Agency staff provided an overview of housing plus services programs related to Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week.
Proposed changes to 4 percent tax credit allocation
Join MHP's discussion on these proposed changes on Thursday, Nov 10, at 3 p.m. by calling 800-220-9875, ID 72658579
One of the weightier topics before the board in October was the board’s approval to open a public comment period for a set of proposed amendments to the Agency’s 2017 and 2018 Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs), which establish the criteria for awarding federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The approval also included a temporary moratorium on accepting applications for 4 percent federal housing tax credits until the board can consider comments on the proposed amendments because the proposed amendments would revise the criteria for awarding such credits. Tingerthal told the board that a combination of market factors has recently made 4 percent credit projects a very viable development alternative. Tingerthal said she is concerned that, if the proposed changes are not made, federal tax exempt bond authority will not be available next year for projects that meet a higher level of state housing priorities. (To access federal 4 percent credits, which are not limited by the federal government, a project must have at least 50 percent of its development cost paid by tax exempt bond financing, which is limited in the amount allocated to the state by federal statute).
This month, MHP released a new report that examines the pace, price and locations of more than 1,000 apartment property sales in the seven-county metro region. The findings are clear: Over the past decade, renters at low- to moderate- income levels have had an increasingly difficult time finding affordable housing. The report includes the experiences of both renters and leaders advocating for change. Karlee Weinmann spoke with Eric Hauge, lead tenant organizer at HOME Line.
Eric Hauge’s phone has been ringing a lot lately.
But that’s to be expected for an organizer at HOME Line, a tenant advocacy group at the center of a burgeoning Twin Cities housing crisis. When property owners’ new plans force out existing tenants, many of them turn to HOME Line for support as they venture out into the increasingly challenging rental market.
It’s tough to imagine a fair fight between property owners and under-resourced tenants. Still, Hauge and his group have worked consistently for months to shift the power balance toward renters. But that’s a tall order when hundreds of tenants — and counting — face displacement.
In April 2015, Janet Troutman-Simmons got news she could only describe as “devastating.” Along with scores of other seniors, the 89-year-old St. Paul resident faced the prospect of having to find new housing when the owner of Como By The Lake decided to discontinue acceptance of Section 8 vouchers.
Determined to save their homes, Troutman-Simmons and other tenants mobilized — and, with the help of advocates and private sector leaders, they brought in Aeon, a developer committed to keeping the building affordable.
“We were not folks looking for a handout, but people who had worked all of our lives in jobs civic and social, teaching and service, manufacturing and farming, educating our children while providing homes and, yes, paying our taxes,” Troutman-Simmons said last week. “At the end of the day there is just not enough money for a fancy retirement. And the country is full of such folks who deserve to live in decent, affordable housing.”