A state program to relieve a chronic shortage of affordable housing in Minnesota awarded $92.4 million on Thursday for new construction and rehabilitation of existing housing across the state, enough money to build or preserve 1,420 affordable housing units.
The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency funding awards come as soaring rent prices have exacerbated the state’s affordable housing problem, which earlier this year generated unwelcome news for the state as the second least affordable in the Midwest for renters.
“We’re feeling the stress just because there are so many households who are looking to do something better for themselves and their families,” said Jeff Washburne, executive director of City of Lakes Community Land Trust, a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps people buy homes.
The awards will help 51 projects across the state, from the construction of 20 new rental units on the Bois Forte Indian Reservation to the purchase and rehabilitation of 150 rental units in the 50-year-old Gateway Tower apartment building in downtown Duluth. Tenants of the Gateway, built in 1964 for low-income seniors, lost hot water for a week last year due to ongoing maintenance problems.
The housing awards were announced Thursday afternoon in Rochester, with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and the state’s housing commissioner, Mary Tingerthal, showcasing a new affordable housing project built there with 2014 funds.
For most of the projects announced Thursday, the state money pays a portion of the cost of new construction or rehab, with private dollars doing the rest. The combined value of the 51 projects is $236 million. The projects will support about 2,400 jobs, according to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
Still, for every project that won funding Thursday, many others were denied, said Marcus Schmit, policy director at the nonprofit Minnesota Housing Partnership. His office estimated that some $140 million in single-family and multifamily developments was denied.
“It is logical to conclude that $92 million is a proverbial drop in the bucket needed to address the statewide affordable housing crisis,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The Minnesota Housing Partnership estimates that there are 31 affordable and available housing units for every 100 extremely low-income renters in Minnesota. Also, renter incomes have fallen by 17 percent since 2000 while rents have risen by 7 percent, after adjusting for inflation.
This year’s awards were not as generous for multifamily housing, with 1,100 units this year vs. 3,423 units last year.
Some of the projects that won funding include:
• $2.2 million for the $9.8 million Cornerstone Village II. The Saint Michael project will have 48 new rental units.
• $4.2 million for the $4.6 million Center for Changing Lives project in Duluth, with 20 new rental units.
• $420,000 for the $8.8 million Marshall Flats in Minneapolis, with 36 new rental units.
• $2 million for the $9.4 million Balsam Apartments project in Dayton, with 48 new rental units.