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Follow MHP Connect for a variety of coverage on housing and community development news in Minnesota and across the nation.

Sold Out: Affordable Housing at Risk has been selected for the 2020 Twin Cities Film Festival. Produced by Twin Cities PBS, in partnership with MHP and local advocates and funders, “Sold Out: Affordable Housing at Risk” reveals the price we all pay when families are pushed out of our communities as modestly priced units are replaced with upscale developments. 

The 2017 documentary is based on a groundbreaking MHP report by the same name. That report tracked a root cause of displacement: strong growth among renter households with higher incomes has created a strong incentive to re-position older properties with diverse populations for younger, more affluent households. The new 60-minute documentary provides first-hand accounts from numerous former residents of the Crossroads at Penn, sharing the devastating impacts of being pushed from a place where some had resided for decades.

Be sure to check out this year’s online-only Twin Cities Film Festival happening October 22nd-31st.

By Elizabeth Glidden, MHP's Director of Strategic Initiatives and Policy

On September 4, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a national moratorium on most evictions for nonpayment of rent, to protect the health and safety of all residents and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  This action is unprecedented and essential; it will not expire until December 31, 2020. Unlike previous federal protections, this order covers all properties , not just those with federally backed mortgages or funding.

In Minnesota, starting in mid-March, Governor Walz has protected health and safety with an evictions suspension that prohibits evictions and lease terminations. Effective August 4, the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order continues to suspend most evictions with some exceptions, such as for damage to property and safety as specified.  

Because Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order suspending evictions has stronger protections for renters than the CDC evictions moratorium, the provisions of the CDC moratorium do NOT apply; Minnesotans must continue to comply with the Governor's order suspending evictions. HOME Line has provided detailed updates and FAQ’s on the Governor’s suspension of evictions here.

While the provisions of Governor Walz’s Emergency Order suspending evictions provide greater protection to renters than the CDC moratorium, the Governor’s EO must be extended in 30-day increments whereas the CDC moratorium is in place through December 31. As of September 10, Governor Walz has announced his intention to extend the peacetime emergency, which would include the suspension of evictions, for another 30 days. 

An overview of the CDC Eviction Moratorium, developed by NLIHC and NHLP, can be found here.

It is critical that Minnesota agencies and organizations continue to promote a consistent message of compliance with the Governor's Order suspending evictions. The CDC moratorium has unique requirements for renters, and limits coverage primarily to non-payment of rent, which could cause confusion for renters, owners, and property managers: these unique provisions of the CDC moratorium do not apply in Minnesota.

Neither the CDC moratorium, nor the Governor’s suspension of evictions, relieves renters of any obligation to pay rent. We are desperately in need of Congress to approve a COVID-19 relief bill with at least $100 billion in housing assistance. 

In Minnesota, the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program launched August 24, making $100 million available to help prevent eviction, prevent homelessness, and maintain housing stability for eligible renters and homeowners. The program is designed to cover expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities or other housing-related expenses that were incurred after March 1, 2020 and are past due. 

Minnesotans can apply for housing assistance and learn more at Greater Twin Cities United Way’s 211 Resource Helpline at 211unitedway.org. Call Greater Twin Cities United Way Toll Free: 1.800.543.7709; Local: 651.291.0211), visiting 211unitedway.org online, or texting “MNRENT” or “MNHOME” to 898-211.) The 211 helpline has dedicated multilingual staff available to answer questions about the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

 

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control took a crucial step toward ensuring Americans don’t lose their homes during the worst pandemic and economic downturn in a century by enacting a federal moratorium on evictions. A nationwide, uniform evictions moratorium for nonpayment of rent is crucial to avoiding massive housing instability. Minnesota Housing Partnership urges Congress and the White House to take the next step and pass rental assistance to ensure Minnesota families aren’t burdened by crushing debt when the moratorium expires on December 31.

The following statement can be attributed to Anne Mavity, executive director of Minnesota Housing Partnership: 

This eviction moratorium is essential to ensure that Minnesota and our country does not experience mass disruptions in housing due to the economic conditions sparked by COVID19.  But it’s only half of the solution to what is needed.  Rent still needs to be paid, and without ongoing rental assistance, families will have their rents accumulate and it will simply delay the eviction cliff, not solve it.  

Minnesota has allocated $100 million toward paying the rent and helping low income homeowners with their housing costs to avoid housing displacement and homelessness. This ensures that housing providers continue to have rental revenue to pay their costs, and that low income families don’t have housing debts accruing. 

We are facing unprecedented challenges ahead. Rental assistance and this eviction moratorium must go hand-in-hand to support housing stability as we weather these economic challenges in Minnesota.

 

The Rock

An iconic former school made of sandstone -- in the City of Sandstone -- will soon become a place to call home. Once complete, The Rock, as it’s known locally, will be a shining example of the adaptive reuse of a historic local landmark.

Sandstone and the surrounding Pine County area lack housing that schoolteachers, trash haulers, and workers at the nearby low-security federal prison can afford. People who want to move to the community for job opportunities often struggle to find a place to live. 

One of the primary reasons for this lack of affordable housing is that it costs too much to build new multi-family rental properties. Incomes in Pine County have stagnated as construction costs continue to rise, so developers tend to pass the region by in favor of more profitable areas. Over the past several years, this has led to a critical lack of affordable homes.

Developers have tried and failed to transform The Rock in the past.. The iconic building was constructed in 1910 out of sandstone that was quarried from the Kettle River Sandstone Company Quarry, and it served as the City of Sandstone’s main school until a new facility was built in the early 2000s. Since then it has sat vacant, a shadow of its former self.

Soon that will change, and The Rock will be revamped into affordable community housing. MHP connected the City of Sandstone with Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC), a nonprofit developer with experience in complex rehabilitation and affordable housing projects. CHDC helped the City of Sandstone realize the community’s vision for the Rock’s renovation into rental housing using Historic and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

Once complete, the building will provide 24 units of affordable workforce rental housing to Pine County residents. Ten units will be reserved for people with disabilities and those who have experienced homelessness. Lakes & Pines Community Action Council and Pine County Health and Human Services will provide supportive services including employment training, mental health assistance, and food support. The building will have on-site laundry, common space, and a management office.

“This project is vital in order to provide quality, safe housing options for all residents in Sandstone,” said Kathy George, City Administrator for Sandstone. “This is an opportunity to preserve an iconic and historic building for future generations. It will also create an incentive for future generations to stay in Sandstone by providing housing that young people working in their first jobs can afford.”

Several community and regional stakeholders have come together to help make this project a reality. Community Housing Development Corporation has worked closely with the City of Sandstone to design, finance, and soon begin construction on the rehabilitation of this important local landmark. Lakes & Pines Community Action and Pine County are coordinating supportive services, and Minnesota Housing Partnership is providing additional funding and technical assistance.

An application for funding has been submitted to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.  Funding awards will be announced this fall.  Construction is anticipated in 2022.