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Minneapolis should restore full funding to Affordable Housing Trust Fund

As 2009 draws to a close, new federal initiatives are enabling Minneapolis to start reclaiming those neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Now that dozens of abandoned, foreclosed properties are being returned to productive use, this city needs to reaffirm its commitment to meeting the housing needs of its most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are also victims of the foreclosure crisis.

City leaders must also recognize that the deep economic recession and projected long, slow recovery will put an even greater premium on providing Minneapolis residents affordable rental opportunities for years to come.

Minneapolis’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund has focused on that need. The Trust Fund is the city’s key financial tool to support the development of affordable rental housing for those local residents who are effectively shut out of the private housing market.

The Trust Fund is the cornerstone of a sustained, long-term policy aimed at expanding the availability of stable, high-quality housing opportunities for the lowest-income members of this community. As one example, it has helped finance the development of 85 affordable rental units in Project for Pride in Living’s Van Cleve project in Southeast Minneapolis. Over the last three years, PPL and other members of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers have built or stabilized more than 800 affordable units, like those at Charlotte Commons.

Every $1 leverages another $9-$10
Today, the Trust Fund provides a crucial source of local support that enables PPL and groups like it to leverage additional public and private dollars for their projects. In fact, every $1 of Trust Funds leverages another $9 to $10 in non-city resources. Not only do these projects provide high-quality affordable housing, but they help generate living-wage construction jobs in an industry that has been hard hit by the current economic turn-down — critical when one considers that unemployment across in the construction trades is expected to be as high as 60 percent this winter.

Once construction is completed, affordable housing provides a return on investment to the city of Minneapolis through the property-tax revenues that it generates. Affordable projects breaking ground this year alone will increase annual tax revenues by nearly $900,000.

City leaders set a $10 million annual funding goal for the fund when it was established in 2003. Unfortunately, that goal will not be reached in Mayor Rybak’s 2010 budget, which has reduced the fund’s proposed 2010 funding level to $8.5 million. This week, we have learned that some council members are proposing even deeper cuts — to $6.5 million. We urge the City Council to restore the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to its full funding of $10 million when the council acts on Minneapolis’ budget during the coming weeks.

Steve Cramer is the executive director of Project for Pride in Living. The Rev. Dale J. Korogi is a pastor at the Church of Christ the King in Minneapolis and a member of the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH). Bill McCarthy is the president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

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