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Keeping housing affordable the goal of community stabilization bill

When he was a city councilmember, Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield) saw the impact of maintaining naturally occurring affordable housing.

One of the city’s largest affordable housing units, Crossroads at Penn, was acquired by a corporation that raised rent and displaced more than 2,000 families, Howard said, including 100 children. Another large housing unit, Season’s Park, was also looking at possible new ownership, but a local nonprofit was able to sweep in to acquire the property and keep it as affordable housing, saving more than 1,000 residents.

Howard sponsors a bill aimed at more preservation and acquisition of naturally occurring affordable housing.

HF443, as amended, would appropriate $75 million in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to Minnesota Housing for a community stabilization program for grants to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing through acquisition and rehabilitation. The bill would set a base appropriation of $50 million in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

The bill was laid over Thursday by the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

“The reason this bill is before us is for every Season’s Park success story, there’s several more Crossroads at Penn,” Howard said. “NOAH sales have doubled in the last year and we’re seeing a significant loss. Frankly, it’s time for the state to step up and we can make a difference.”

Grants would be eligible for property that offers multi-unit rental housing that is at least 20 years old and rents a majority of units at a price affordable to households earning at or below 60% of the area median income. Single-family, owner-occupied homes within areas of high-risk displacement would also qualify.

Grants would be available to local and tribal governments, private developers, limited equity cooperatives, cooperatives, community land trusts, and nonprofits. Minnesota Housing would be required to use a statewide intermediary for multi-family rental housing and single-family housing.

The bill would add to Gov. Tim Walz’s revised supplemental budget that calls for $100 million in community stabilization.

“From an economic perspective, from a moral perspective, from an equity perspective and from an efficient use of our state dollars perspective, we absolutely can and should be investing in preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing,” Howard said.

The bill’s companion, SF768, is sponsored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

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