County funnels $790,000 to Downtown housing projects

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December 20, 2004 // UPDATED 4:59 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Three Downtown affordable housing projects received a boost from Hennepin County's Affordable Housing Incentive Fund. Minneapolis again got the lion's share of the money.

According to a news release and several county sources:

The County Board approved a $375,000 secured loan for Project for Pride in Living's $3 million renovation of Elliot Park Commons, 610 E. 15th St. The building has 25 federally subsidized Section 8 units for people with mental disabilities. The money will preserve those units.

The County Board approved a $300,000 loan for Brighton Development's $14.8 million, 97-unit St. Anthony Mills Apartments, at Washington and Chicago avenues south & South 2nd Street. It is geared toward entry-level Downtown workers who depend on public transportation. Forty-nine units will be affordable to people making 50 percent of metro median income (MMI), or $38,750 for a family of four.

The County approved a $115,000 loan for the 35-unit Hawthorne Avenue Apartments, 1501 Hawthorne Ave., near the Basilica. The Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation is buying and renovating the Loring Park building. It will work with the Minneapolis Community and Technical College and rent a number of the units to students in the school's nursing program, foundation staff said.

The county is finalizing loan terms for each project. The county provides below-market-rate interest, between 0 and 3 percent, said Carol Stinar, principal planning analyst with Housing, Community Works and Transit. The principal and interest payments are deferred, with the total due at the end of the term, typically 30 years.

The County created the affordable housing fund in 2000 to provide last-resort gap funding to create or preserve affordable housing, a news release said. It is targeted to developments affordable to people at 50 percent of MMI or less.

In all, the County Board approved $4 million to 16 affordable housing projects in 2004. Twelve grants went to Minneapolis developments, and grants totaled $3.1 million.

County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, whose district includes parts of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, said the county has tried to encourage suburban communities to submit projects.

"A couple of years ago, it was a little more even. In the last couple of years, it is definitely weighted toward Minneapolis," she said. It "is an issue we have been struggling with ... We are trying to figure out how to more aggressively market supportive housing in particular in the suburbs."

Some Minneapolis activists have questioned whether suburban communities were doing as much as they should to add to the affordable housing supply.

Ken Kelash, a Minneapolis Central Labor Union representative on the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) Policy Board, made the point during a recent NRP debate. Informed of the Minneapolis emphasis in Hennepin County affordable housing loans, he made it again.

"Once again it is Minneapolis taking the load for the whole county's affordable housing issue," he said.

Elizabeth Ryan, Minneapolis' interim director of housing policy, said a study called "The Next Decade of Housing in Minnesota" sets affordable housing targets for Hennepin County in general, but does not break down how many affordable units each city should have at various income levels. The Met Council is working on those targets.

Dorfman said the county's affordable housing loans have few criteria. One is that the neighborhood supports the project. "These are all projects in Minneapolis that come with neighborhood and city support."

The suburbs have "tons of affordable housing projects" and the county continues to push that more. She called it "good news" that the county continues to fund Minneapolis' affordable housing developments.

"They are innovative projects that then become models for other projects all over the metro area," she said. "It is easier to go to the suburbs and say 'Hey, you should drive over to Minneapolis and see that project and see how well it runs and what an asset it is.' It is easier to sell it that way."

The grants to the four suburban projects were: $550,000 for St. Louis Park's Louisiana Court, 129 rental units, $250,000 for Maple Grove's Maple Ridge Townhomes, a 46-unit rental project; $70,000 for the St. Louis Park's Brookfield Lofts, 30 units of home ownership and $25,000 for countywide apartment lead abatement.

The grants given to other Minneapolis affordable housing developments were:

- $500,000 for the Midtown Exchange, a 223-unit apartment at 2929 Chicago Ave. S.

- $425,000 for Camden Apartments/Fathers and Children Together (FACT), 23 units at 4643-4651 Lyndale Ave. N.

- $350,000 for The Jourdain, a 41-unit rental project at 2000-2012 Portland Ave. S.

- $350,000 for the River Run Apartments, 1424 Marshall St. NE.

- $300,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Residence, a 45-unit rental, 4550 Humboldt Ave. N.

- $250,000 for the 71-unit St. Anne's Senior Housing, 2300-2420 W. Broadway Ave.

- $50,000 for the 15-unit Cedar Avenue Condominiums, 2750 Cedar Ave. S.

- $50,000 for the City of Lakes Community Land Trust, scattered-site home ownership.

- $40,000 to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity Affordable Homeownership, 3300 Stinson Blvd. NE.