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Market Challenges Persist, But MN Keeps Affordable Housing Solutions in Sight


Thursday, December 22, 2022   

Amid a challenging housing market, Minnesota has released annual funds to provide more affordable homes around the state. It coincides with efforts in different regions to boost options which will not price out those searching for housing stability.

This month, the Minnesota Housing board of directors approved $165 million it said will create and preserve more than 2,000 homes, apartments and other units. At the community level, the Neighborhood Development Alliance continues to work with low-income Latinos in Minneapolis and St. Paul to boost homeownership.

Karen Reid, executive director of the group, said the individuals they serve face big challenges right now.

"They're competing against other prospective homeowners, and they're competing against investors, and they have the least amount of resources to compete," Reid pointed out. "We're trying to get products that can help them compete better."

The Neighborhood Development Alliance, with support from organizations such as the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, offers services such as financial counseling. But Reid noted it is responding in other ways, too, including soon offering low-interest loans to help clients chip away at their debt and qualify for a mortgage more quickly.

Elsewhere, the city of North Branch, with its growing population, has a lot of more affordable older housing, but officials said people are opting to stay in those homes.

Renae Fry, city administrator of North Branch, said it is why rental developments, such as one from 2017 which included 48 townhomes with stable rent prices, have been a lifeline.

"I do believe that they're achieving the goals," Fry contended. "In that they're actually serving the needs of 48 families who might not have been able to afford housing anywhere else."

But she acknowledged the complex has no availability, indicating there is still a great need. The city said it is trying to work with developers of single-family homes to be more flexible in terms of lot sizes, to keep prices lower.

Back in the Twin Cities, Reid noted the challenge is not just about getting approved for a home, but being able to stay in it. She added groups such as the housing alliance continue work on foreclosure prevention and assisting with deferred maintenance for more affordable older homes.

"We're looking at that, you know, do we come in right away with a rehab loan after a purchase?" Reid stated.

As for this year's round of state funding, officials say many of the housing developments selected include more than three bedrooms to accommodate large families.

Disclosure: The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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