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“The city’s role is in a matchmaking [capacity] as opposed to being a funder,” said Council Member John Quincy, who represents the area of the Northrop site and chairs the council’s Ways and Means Committee. “Is it fair to property taxpayers to say we’re going to give this project $1 million worth of property tax abatement over a period of 30 years?”
More city tools are available to help build rental properties geared toward low-income seniors. The city pledged last year to set aside 30 percent of its affordable housing trust fund, about $3 million a year, to help build senior rental housing.
It also plans to use a set amount of its bonding authority to help senior housing projects obtain low interest rates. That funding is important, since state low-income housing tax credits are not typically geared toward new senior housing and federal funds are less plentiful than they once were.
“We would build senior projects in Minneapolis all day if we could,” said Amanda Novak with CommonBond Communities, which specializes in affordable housing development and management. “We are resource constrained; that’s why we don’t build more.”
Novak added that projects her group has opened in Minneapolis with federal subsidies to lower rents have filled up in one day.
“The general problem we see is that no level of government is focused on financing or funding senior housing,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who chairs the council’s community development committee. “And as a result, we become the only partner in the deal. And then the developers can never make the numbers work.”
Tom Melchior, director of market research with CliftonLarsonAllen, said new, more-service-intensive senior housing largely won’t be needed until after 2021 — when the oldest boomers turn 75. He said that’s the best target for city resources, rather than under-75 alternative housing driven by people’s choice to move.
Kennedy and Powers aren’t sure what the future holds. But had their neighborhood senior facility been built, Powers said, “You’d be talking to us at a different address now.”
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732