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This month's board meeting featured adoption of the state's Consolidated Plan, an update on bonding for housing at the state legislature, proposed new rules for awarding tax credits to housing projects, and a change for providing homeless services in the St. Cloud area.

2012-16 Con Plan Adopted

The Board adopted the state's 2012-16 Consolidated Plan, also known as the Con Plan. This document provides an analysis of demographic and housing trends facing the state, and then identifies strategies and priorities for investment of federal community development and homeless funding. The document is jointly created by Minnesota Housing, DEED, and DHS and covers funding to the state through HOME, CDBG, HOPWA and SHP federal housing programs.

Under the five year plan, the housing objectives are: 1) enhance housing opportunities; 2) mitigate foreclosure impacts through prevention and remediation; 3) preserve existing affordable housing stock; and 4) increase the availability of affordable rental housing. These are similar to those in the Minnesota Housing 2011-2012 strategic plan. The major differences are the exclusion of a priority for homelessness (though homelessness has its own section in the Consolidated Plan), and the addition of an objective of increasing rental housing.

In presenting the recommendation, staff described a process of significant public outreach. The only submitted comment, received from MHP, led Minnesota Housing to revise its draft plan to include the improvement of the capacity of nonprofit affordable housing developers and program administrators under its objectives of preserving and increasing the supply of affordable housing.

HUD will now have 45 days to review the state's plan. Staff said that typically HUD will not turn down a submitted plan but might require clarifications.

Legislative Update

Assistant Commissioner Tonja Orr updated the board on the 2012 Minnesota legislative session. She mentioned that the governor including $32 million of the agency's bonding request in the bill came as welcome news. But, Orr said, passage of this amount was not a given; the governor's total bonding amount is about twice as large as what the legislative leadership has said that they would support.

For the bonding proposal the agency prepared maps of locations of public housing, federally assisted housing and concentrated foreclosures. This effort is to show legislators all the areas where bond funds might be invested to restore housing.

Member Stephanie Klinzing suggested that the agency's map on foreclosures might be misleading. As an example, in Sherburne County, many of the foreclosed properties are empty lots, not vacant homes needing bond funds to repair and make marketable.

QAP Plan Undergoing Revision

The board preliminarily approved the 2013 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), the plan used by the Agency for awarding federal housing tax credits. Staff said that this annual plan represented a simplification of the numerous criteria that had been used to award tax credits in prior years.

The agency will have a public hearing on the proposed QAP on February 22 [editor's note: this meeting will be 1-3pm in the Minnesota Housing office, State Street Room]; the board will approve the final version at its March meeting.

Staff told the board that one significant change to the QAP was the designation of ten Twin Cities and twenty Greater Minnesota communities as "top growth" communities. New, potentially controversial unit-cost criteria intended to hold down the price of tax credit projects have also been included.

Staff reported that they had reviewed the draft plan with local governments that serve as sub-allocators of tax credits. The only concern they heard was expressed by City of Minneapolis representatives; the concern is that the draft plan's emphasis on housing preservation runs counter to the city's priority to make housing investments outside of impacted areas.

Transfer of Homeless Prevention Funds in Greater St. Cloud Metro

The Board approved a transfer of homeless prevention funds from Tri-County CAP to the St. Cloud-based Catholic Charities. Tri-CAP requested the transfer due to loss of its capacity to administer the program. Member Klinzing expressed concern that the more rural areas of the three-county area might not be as well served after the transfer, with Catholic Charities being based in St. Cloud. She noted that regional coordination has been an ongoing issue for the three-county area since 1978 when the regional development commission ceased operation. Yet, she added, there is a significant homeless population in the region outside of St. Cloud proper. Staff responded that Catholic Charities was clear on its obligation to offer services throughout the region.

Farewell to Member Sanderson

The board said its farewell to Barb Sanderson, who was presented with a plaque for her board service. Member Bostrom said that Sanderson opened the eyes of the board to the housing situation outside the Twin Cities. In her good-bye, Sanderson said that she had committed 50 years to affordable housing issues, which she considers the social justice issue of the time.