For the first time, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) has applied to a federal program that would privatize some of its oldest housing units.

On Aug. 30, the local housing agency requested that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development consider adding the 174-unit Elliot Twins, a pair of downtown high-rise apartment buildings, to its Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

RAD allows housing authorities to attract private investors, who will qualify for tax credits in exchange for providing the cash needed to renovate aging housing units.

Renovations at the Elliot Twins, at 1212 S. 9th St., will include new windows, roofs and exteriors for the buildings, according to the application. During the renovation, the agency will move residents to other public housing units or give them vouchers to rent in the private market.

The renovation will be carried out in phases to avoid displacing residents all at once.

Before the agency applied to the program, it held public hearings for residents in early August.

"I came as a refugee from war," an unnamed Elliot Twins resident told MPHA officials during the hearing, according to a transcript of the meeting posted on the agency's website. "We wonder if you will kick us out and bring others in. I would like to know the truth. This is the only home that I know."

Agency officials assured residents the conversion won't permanently displace residents and that their rents will remain at their current 30 percent of their income. During the renovation, the agency will help residents pay for their relocation expenses or hire movers for them.

"This is a complex decision," Tracey Scott, MPHA's deputy executive director, told residents on Aug. 8. "The Elliot Twins are some of MPHA's oldest buildings. There is amazing potential for better apartments, better common areas and better outdoor amenities."

If HUD approves the application, the local housing authority will begin to assemble the financing plan necessary to renovate the Elliot Twins, said Jeff Horwich, a spokesman for the MPHA.

Mukhtar M. Ibrahim • 612-673-4689