Minnetonka is getting new affordable, single-family housing for the first time in more than 20 years.
Construction started Monday on the first of what could be more than a dozen homes on land owned by Mills Church, which is partnering with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity to develop permanently affordable housing on the 2.3-acre site.
"Minnetonka needs more homes that working class families can afford," said Chris Coleman, president and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, at a groundbreaking event Monday. "That's why we're here today, celebrating the start of construction on this home."
About 100 people gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking, including Mills Church members wearing bright blue shirts with the words "Love Makes Room" — the name of a public campaign to build support for the housing development.
In 2019, Mills Church members — some of whom have struggled to find homeownership opportunities themselves — approached the Minnetonka City Council with a proposal to turn church land into affordable housing. The land is currently an apple orchard, community garden, grassy area and parking lot. The community garden will be moved and the apple orchard will remain, according to a Habitat spokesperson.
Community sessions were held to get feedback on the proposal.
"That process was to help us and really get feedback from the neighbors on what would make a good project," said David Landt, lead pastor of Mills Church. When COVID-19 hit, Landt said, community sessions had to stop. The church decided to partner with Habitat, which constructed Minnetonka's last affordable home in 2000.
The median property value in Minnetonka grew from $347,900 in 2019 to $362,100 in 2020, according to census data. Earlier this year, Mills Church sold the land for the first new home to Habitat for $65,000. The rest of the parcel remains under church ownership.
"It's a unique opportunity where we have a willing, patient seller who's also discounting the land for us," said Chad Dipman, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity land development director. "We think that we can do a pretty good job of fitting these homes into the neighborhood well enough and providing affordable ownership in this area where there is none."
The first home will be about 2,000 square feet, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. The expected move-in date is in June.
Twelve more twin homes and townhomes await city approval and may be built as early as spring 2024.
Buyers are eligible for a 30-year mortgage through Habitat with payments set at 30% of their income, and no down payment is required, according to a news release.
"I am very proud of the fact that Habitat is back in our city. That's a big deal. And it's important to me, and it's important to our residents," Mayor Brad Wiersum said at Monday's event. "I can promise you that it will not be another 22 years before Habitat comes back for another project and more work in Minnetonka."