A metro-wide initiative will begin buying affordable housing units this summer in an effort to keep them affordable.
The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund launched the NOAH Impact Fund last fall, with the goal of reversing the trend of affordable housing being snatched up by investors to redevelop into higher-end rentals that price out low-income residents.
The Impact Fund aimed to raise $25 million to save 1,000 affordable units most at risk of being converted into higher-end rentals in the seven-county metro area. But it wound up raising $32 million, with $3 million of that coming from Hennepin County, the lead investor.
While the threat to affordable housing exists across the state and region, Hennepin County has about half the metro area's affordable rentals and 30 percent of all rentals in Minnesota.
Past efforts to expand affordable housing have focused on building more such units to combat its growing scarcity in the Twin Cities' tight rental market. Communities continue to see a net loss in affordable housing when existing units go upscale.
16 parks will undergo prescribed burns
Sixteen parks in Bloomington will undergo prescribed burning in an effort to restore native prairies, wetlands and park landscapes. Burns will begin the second week of April and go through the end of May.
Because of weather variability, crews won't know the exact date and time a burn will take place until that day or the day before. City officials will alert residents adjacent to a burn area on the day of the burn.
Burn areas include Hyland Hills Park, Girard Park and the southern edge of Normandale Lake Park.
The burns aim to remove built-up thatch material and weed seeds, control invasive trees and shrubs and reduce the spread of hazardous fuels and pest insects. They also would stimulate the growth of native plants, trees and wildflowers and improve habitats for endangered species.
The burn rotation is a joint effort with the Bloomington Fire Department, Bloomington Parks and Recreation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To see a full list of burn areas, visit blm.mn/burn.
Board approves $250K in youth sports grants
The Hennepin County Board last month awarded $250,000 in Youth Sports Program grants to help fund playground renovations and sports equipment.
The program is funded with a portion of the Minnesota Twins' ballpark sales tax enacted by Hennepin County in 2006. The tax brings in $36 million a year, with $29 million going to pay off stadium debt; the rest funds operations of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, capital expenses, the youth sports grants and weekend hours for Hennepin County libraries.
Since the youth sports grant program started in 2009, the county has awarded $19.6 million. By the time the program ends, county officials estimate it will have funded $130 million for youth sports and library programs in Minneapolis and west metro suburbs.
For more details, go to hennepin.us/your-government/projects-initiatives/henn-youth-sports/.
Council in favor of local decisionmaking
The Hopkins City Council passed a resolution Tuesday supporting local decisionmaking authority, in response to proposed bills at the Legislature that it says could reduce that power.
"I think we just need to have our voice heard," Council Member Jason Gadd said before Tuesday's vote.
City Manager Mike Mornson said that at least 24 bills heard in the State Capitol this session interfere with policy and funding decisions of cities. Some involve the proposed extension of the light-rail Green Line, which would go through Hopkins.
According to the resolution, the city "opposes legislation that removes the ability for local elected officials to respond to the needs of their businesses and constituents."
Mornson said the League of Minnesota Cities is asking all cities to pass similar resolutions. The City Council will share the resolution with its representatives in the Legislature.
Watershed district celebrates 50 years
Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is marking its 50th anniversary this year with a series of free community events.
The series, "Jump In & Make a Splash," starts April 29 and ends Nov. 2 and includes activities such as fishing and collecting prairie seeds. The watershed district is one of the largest financially in Minnesota and covers 181 square miles from Minnehaha Falls to Lake Minnetonka.
For more details, go to minnehahacreek.org/50/.