The Big Picture Project releases Central Corridor Affordable Housing Progress Report

May 14, 2014
By The Big Picture Project
During the recent Funders Collaborative Stakeholder event and in the 2013 annual report, we asked the question, “Are we ready for rail?” and evaluated what does “ready” look like in five key areas including affordable housing. 
As light rail service is scheduled to begin, affordable housing options in the communities along the Central Corridor’s Green Line also are on track. This is the headline of the 2014 Progress Report released by The Big Picture Project, a coalition of 18 organizations aimed at creating a big picture, unified housing strategy for the Central Corridor. 

The Big Picture Project is hosted by the Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and Twin Cities LISC, and supported by the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Two years ago, this cross-disciplinary coalition that brings together government, developers, housing advocates and neighborhood groups rolled out a coordinated 10-year plan to create and preserve opportunities for affordable housing along an 11-mile stretch of the Central Corridor. This big picture housing plan was created to attract and leverage anticipated investment within the Central Corridor – already a reported $1.7B – to stabilize existing housing stock, preserve affordable rentals, and make sure new development projects improve the quality of life for residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

“Central Corridor Station Area Plans propose 17,000 new housing units will be constructed over the next 30 years”, said Jonathan Sage-Martinson, Executive Director, Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. “We need both a healthy production and a healthy balance of housing options to meet that goal, and to ensure communities are not displaced in the process.”

The Progress Report tracks key indicators over the past few years to see how change is happening along the Corridor and helps evaluate if adjustments need to be made. The report also highlights key initiatives and investments happening that respond to The Big Picture Project’s goals and recommendations. Trends include:

  • For every new subsidized unit on the Corridor, 12 market rate units were added, which indicates the predominance of new housing in the corridor is non-subsidized (7% of all new units are considered affordable).
  • Compared to Minneapolis/St. Paul, a higher share of households in the corridor is cost-burdened.  
  • Population in the Corridor is increasing, and this includes increases in Asian and Black populations.
  • Rents are up throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul on the whole, and even more so in the corridor. High rent units (over $1,995) make up an increasing share of available units on the corridor, the majority of which are in Downtown Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, and Downtown St. Paul. 
  • Assessments in the Corridor—one of the main levers of property taxes that can put pressure on low-income homeowners—have not gone up.
“The data show increasing population and development along the line, but – at least so far- these changes do not appear to be pushing out lower-income households”, said Jane Tigan, Research Associate, Wilder Research. “The short trends that we are tracking are, however, mixed, with rents along the line increasing fairly rapidly even while homeowners saw decreases in their tax-assessed property values.”
Specifically, The Big Picture Project set out to invest in the production and preservation of long-term affordable housing, with a goal of 4,500 new and preserved housing units by 2020. To date, 2,076 new and preserved units have been created, with 545 units in the pipeline. At this pace, 346 units are needed annually to meet the expanded goal, suggesting the goal is within reach. For example, The Episcopal Homes Project is rising next to Iris Park, the Old Home Dairy project is underway to bring 58 more units to Frogtown, and Project for Pride in Living (PPL) is building 108 affordable units at Hamline Station. Watch the short video featuring Andriana Ambriose (Twin Cities LISC) and Chris Dettling (PPL) describing the Hamline Station project and partnership. 
“The need for affordable housing options throughout the region is great and will always exceed the goal”, said Eric Muschler, McKnight Foundation. “Instead,our coordinated efforts focus on the kind of communities we want to create, which are places of opportunity for all.”

About The Big Picture Project
Hosted by the Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul and Twin Cities LISC, and supported by the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, The Big Picture Project is a 10-year initiative that involves a wide range of participants to align individual affordable housing projects throughout the Central Corridor. It considers dozens of existing plans, maps, and data banks related to affordable housing along the entire 11 miles of the Central Corridor and offers a set of recommendations that focus investments and policies to make the area a better place to live and work. Recommendations were completed in November 2011 and the first Progress Report is being released today.
Taken from The Big Picture Project press release announcing the Progress Report, May 12, 2014