St. Paul's Affordable Housing Efforts Come Into Focus

2019-05-08 | Star Tribune

May 08--St. Paul's new $10 million housing trust fund will pay for tenant protections, down-payment assistance for home buyers and property-tax breaks for landlords who keep rents low, among other new programs for 2019.

Mayor Melvin Carter announced the creation of a housing trust fund last year as part of his first budget.

The fund, which the city will boost with an additional $2 million each year, "is intended to address the current crisis of housing affordability in St. Paul," according to a release from the city's Department of Planning and Economic Development.

The Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which is made up of City Council members, heard the first report on the housing trust fund Wednesday.

Housing Director Kayla Schuchman told council members that work is already underway, including a property-tax incentive program for building owners who agree to preserve affordable units for 10 years.

There's more to come, including an inventory of "naturally occurring affordable housing" in the city and new programs for down-payment and rental assistance, Schuchman said.

City Council members applauded the report but also asked for more details. Council Member Rebecca Noecker asked whether the city has an established goal for the number of new affordable housing units, as well as whether existing zoning codes might prevent more from being built.

"There are so many things that other government agencies are responsible for, but really what is on us is the production of affordable housing and making those units come online faster," Noecker said.

While Schuchman didn't offer a specific housing production goal, she said city staff are exploring policy changes, such as inclusionary zoning, that would allow for more density.

"There are a lot of important aspects of the housing crisis and a lot of really promising and exciting tools," Schuchman said. "Our approach has really been to create and present a focused strategy so that we really have the tools to move something forward."

Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509

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