Bad news for low-income housing in MN

Two reports out this week highlight the scarcity and continuing problems of low-income housing in Minnesota. The first focuses on the gap between need and available housing, and the second on deep problems within the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

Housing Link, a nonprofit clearinghouse for affordable housing information, issued a report highlighting the housing gap. Its key findings:

  • 151,788 metro-area households had incomes of less than 30 percent of the area median income. According to the report, that’s considered “extremely low income” by HUD.
  • Only 50,103 subsidized housing opportunities were targeted for these households, out of a total of only 80,178 total subsidized housing opportunities in the Twin Cities metro area.

Subsidized housing opportunities included both tenant-based subsidies, such as Section 8 rent subsidies, and unit-based subsidies, which are tied to the apartment or house rather than to the renters.

Sharon Rolenc recently reported in the TC Daily Planet on the overwhelming demand for subsidized housing and the closed Section 8 waiting lists throughout the metro area:

St. Paul opened its waiting list in 2007 for three days and received more than 11,000 requests for applications.  Minneapolis opened its list in 2008 for two days and nearly 14,000 applications were received.  More recently, Richfield opened its list in November 2009, and had 11,000 people turn out for 500 spots selected randomly by computer.

The second bad-news report comes from LarsonAllen consultants, who were tasked by the Minnesota Housing Finance board with evaluating the strained situation within the Minnesota Housing Finance agency under the leadership of Dan Bartholomay. According to the Star Tribune:

The report called Bartholomay “a polarizing figure,” adding that he “appears to have misread the level of distrust he has generated, as well as his lack of credible knowledge of housing programs and housing finance.”

The report also cited an atmosphere of secrecy and intimidation of employees, including a bizarre incident of a manager requiring a “loyalty oath.”

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