Minnesota Housing investing $254 million throughout the state

This week, Minnesota Housing announced that state and federal resources have been approved to leverage $572 million in private and local funding to create and preserve more than 2,665 homes across Minnesota. Of the 74 developments approved for funding matches, is a project proposed for the site of the former Riverview Elementary School in Grand Rapids.

Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Leimaile Ho joined community leaders at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis on Thursday to announce $254 million in funding to create and preserve more than 2,665 homes throughout the state, including rental units and single-family homes.

The announcement outlined funding for the 74 projects that support more than 5,025 jobs and will leverage additional private and local resources for more than $572 million in total development costs. Each of the projects announced was selected through a single common application process with funding from Minnesota Housing, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and the Metropolitan Council.

“This investment means more Minnesota families will be able to live in a home they can afford in a community of their choice, and more businesses will be able to attract and retain the employees they need to thrive,” said Governor Walz. “While this funding puts us on the right path forward, we still have work to do. I look forward to our continued conversation on how to provide housing options that meet the full spectrum of needs of Minnesota’s growing population.”

The Aurora Heights development will be the construction of 56 rental homes, including 38 apartment units with 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units and 16 townhome units with 3- and 4-bedroom units. It will serve households with incomes up to 80% MTSP (Multifamily Tax Subsidy Projects) income limits as established by HUD (approximately $46,400 for a family of two and $57,920 for a family of four) as well as 14 homeless households.

The Minnesota Housing investment for Aurora Heights will be $9,037,000 with a total development cost estimated at $11,847,000. The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund has committed to $100,000 for the project.

Aurora Heights is a collaboration between the Itasca County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (ICHRA), the City of Grand Rapids, Northland Counseling Center and DWJones Management. As part of the project, the 14 single resident occupancy units currently located at Northland’s Midway Villa residential facility in northeast Grand Rapids will be converted to one-bedroom units at this new location.

“We are excited to be partnering with Itasca County HRA and DW Jones to help meet the housing needs in our community,” commented Northland CEO Chris Jenkins. “A lot of thanks goes out to Audrey Moen who worked very hard to get the application completed.”

Moen is Northland Counseling Center’s former Housing Manager who, prior to retiring this fall, was one of several members of the Itasca County Housing Institute Team who have taken action to address local housing needs and homelessness in Itasca County. The team initiated a housing study and established a goal to develop permanent supportive housing opportunities.

“Everyone needs a safe, secure place to live. Aurora Heights will allow many of those in our local workforce to locate housing in a tight rental market and allow families to have a safe place to raise their children. The funding for this housing is extremely competitive and we are very excited to bring both federal and state resources to our community,” says Diane Larson, ICHRA Executive Director and key member of the Housing Institute Team.

According to Larson, the demand for rental housing is strong in the Grand Rapids area with less than a 1% vacancy rate in all sectors of rental housing at the present time. A new housing study recently released projects the need for approximately 400 or more housing units will be needed in the next five years.

“The site of the previous Riverview School is ideal for the development of Aurora Heights to repurpose vacated land to provide housing opportunities in the heart of the city, near our trail systems, and across from the YMCA. Aurora Heights will offer a unique, high quality living option at price points affordable to families making a moderate income,” added Larson who called the development “a great boost for our community.”

One of the local housing team’s first success stories was the 48-unit Beacon Hill housing community in Grand Rapids which opened to occupants in August 2016. Local team members involved in that project represented GRACE House Homeless Shelter, Itasca County Health and Human Services, Itasca County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Kootasca Community Action, the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Northland Counseling Center. The dedicated time and collaborative efforts provided by individuals on the team resulted in approval of $8.6 million in state housing infrastructure bonds for the project.

Moen summarized the collaboration from the housing team members and the planning process for that project as: “Many hands make for light work.”

As Minnesota Housing Commissioner Ho explains, the state continues to face a significant housing shortage, especially for low- and moderate-income residents. Nearly half a million households in Minnesota spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

“Housing is foundational to everything we do. It’s how children succeed, it’s how families build wealth, it’s how we age well, it’s how communities thrive,” said Commissioner Ho.

Other area developments approved for funding by Minnesota Housing this week include Birch Lake Apartments in Hackensack which will be the rehabilitation of 19 units also developed by DWJones. In Blackduck, two single family new construction developments by Headwaters Housing Development Corporation were also approved.

Minnesota Housing is the state’s housing finance agency. It’s goal is to provide access to safe, decent and affordable housing and to build stronger communities across the state. In 2018, Minnesota Housing invested $1.26 billion and assisted more than 66,000 households.

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