July 1, 2015
By Gretchen Nicholls, Twin Cities LISC
Affordable housing momentum is growing along the Green Line LRT corridor. According to the Big Picture Project's 2015 Progress Report, a steady stream of investments is being made in both affordable and market-rate housing. By keeping a watchful eye on what's unfolding throughout the corridor, the Big Picture Project (BPP) partners are monitoring change and results for the communities along the new light rail transit corridor.
“Affordable housing goals next to affordable transportation is a double win,” says Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. “If low-income families can spend less of their hard earned dollars on housing and cars, that leaves more income to go toward their children and other critical life essentials.”
What was learned in the past year?
- With tight rental markets and rising rents along the corridor, renters are most vulnerable for displacement. The 39% increase in rental rates along the Central Corridor/Green Line is alarming but only tells part of the story. While it does track the advertised (actively marketed) two-bedroom rental units, it does not track changes to rental rates for existing occupied units.
- Assessed property values had a slight uptick, but are still below 2011 levels.
- The majority of new housing development is occurring in the downtowns and University area, less in the Midway East/Central/West areas. About 12% of the new housing along the Central Corridor is subsidized affordable.
- More focus is needed to stabilize existing single-family housing that serves low-income families. That could include strategies such as home improvement loans, first-lien mortgage loans, and the redevelopment of vacant and foreclosed properties.
- The exceptional collaborative work of the Frogtown Rondo Home Fund’s partner organizations attracted $2 million in public sector investment in housing in the neighborhoods. The four focus areas they serve saw over $2.9 million in residential building permits in 2014–double the value and the share of the total neighborhood compared to 2012. In addition, Home Fund partners have raised awareness of housing instability for neighborhood tenants, and they committed almost 60% of its resources to tenant service providers.
- Policy options that encourage private sector investment in affordable housing are being explored along the entire Green Line (Central Corridor and Southwest extension), such as density bonuses and inclusionary housing.
- A robust pipeline of affordable housing preservation and new construction is emerging, which will lift us closer to our goal for 2020.
Between 2011-2014, 2,375 units of new and preserved affordable housing units were located on the corridor and 1,778 additional units were added to the pipeline—putting the stretch goal of 4,500 units by 2020 within striking distance (347 units).
The Big Picture Project, sponsored by the Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and Twin Cities LISC, is a cross-disciplinary collaborative of government, finance, developer, and community partners who created a coordinated plan for affordable housing along the Green Line in 2012. The 10-year plan identifies goals for the production and preservation of long-term affordable housing and for stabilizing neighborhoods by investing in activities that help residents with low incomes stay in their homes. The $3 billion in investments currently under way along the Green Line must work to strengthen opportunities for all income levels. Project partners are committed to making sure that happens and to encouraging continued affordable housing momentum along the corridor.