City, Downtown housing stock shows big quality jump

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February 28, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The city of Minneapolis and Downtown neighborhoods have seen dramatic improvements in housing stock over the past two decades, according to city assessor's data.

Citywide, only 3.3 percent of property is considered substandard, compared to 15 percent in the early 1980s and 10 percent in the early 1990s, according to a Feb. 15 memo from city planner Matt Bower.

Downtown-area neighborhoods showed similar improvement. In 1990, Elliot Park, Downtown East, Nicollet Island/East Bank and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods each had more than 10 percent substandard housing.

Today, all Downtown neighborhoods have housing stock that is less than 3.3 percent substandard, with the exception of Elliot Park, which has dropped below 10 percent.

Bower said many factors contributed to the improvement, beyond Downtown's obvious housing boom. Interests rates dropped, making home improvement loans less expensive. Rising property values have increased homeowner equity. The Neighborhood Revitalization Program has provided an infusion of housing-improvement money. Some blighted housing has been torn down.

Downtown's improvement will cut some neighborhoods out of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money. The city can decide how to target funds to certain neighborhoods based on housing stock quality, a proxy measure of helping a general neighborhood instead of a particular person or family. For instance, the city spends approximately $1 million a year in CDBG money in neighborhoods with below-average housing stock to pay for graffiti removal, lead hazard reduction, and a new "problem properties" program.

In the 1990s, 36 neighborhoods qualified for CDBG programs because their housing stock exceeded the city average of 10 percent substandard; only seven neighborhoods currently exceed that figure.

The city has lowered the qualifying figure to 3.3 percent - the new citywide average. Even then, total eligible neighborhoods dropped by a third to 23, and in Downtown now only includes Elliot Park, whose borders are roughly South 6th Street, 5th Avenue, I-94 and I-35W.