Poor people, housing and a ray of hope

With rental rates rising and transit-oriented development booming along the almost-ready-for-prime-time Central Corridor, what’s happening to poor people in the Twin Cities? Two recent articles sound distress signals, but there’s a ray of hope from the legislature.

Marlys Harris’s May 17 article in MinnPost summarizes and analyzes the Big Picture Project report, and is worth reading in full. Harris discusses the relation of rents and transit-oriented development along the Green Line/Central Corridor.

A second sad story in the Star Tribune shows another dimension of the housing problem, with Section 8 renters being forced out of apartment complexes.

The MinnPost article notes that rental costs are rising along University Avenue, though the highest rents remain concentrated in the two downtowns and the U of M neighborhoods. Here’s the graphic from the Big Picture Project report that summarizes the rent stats:

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 8.18.57 PM

Incomes along the line vary, too:

  • Downtown Minneapolis – $55,736
  • University area – $24,057 (which reflects lower student income)
  • Midway West – $41,396
  • Midway Central – $38,130
  • Midway East – $33,413
  • Downtown St. Paul – $34,050

The implications for poor people are complicated, depending on whether they own or rent, and whether rental values continue to increase as the Green Line starts to actually run. Harris points out that

“The bunching of poor people in already poor neighborhoods, however, does have an adverse effect: It keeps them in highly segregated schools, which by their nature, are inferior. …

“Efforts to keep poorer families in their homes have not surged, either. Only in one area — mortgage foreclosure assistance — has the project already exceeded its 2020 goal of 303. But the project has granted just 51 home-improvement loans — though its goal is 598. There have been 25 vacant properties redeveloped (the goal is 150) and 98 first mortgages, in contrast to a goal of 402.  Of course, there are five-and-a-half more years for this project to run.”

The Strib article focuses on Nicollet Ridge Apartments in Burnsville, where a new owner will no longer accept Section 8 rent subsidies ‑ and that means about 250 people in 94 apartments will have to find other housing that will accept their Section 8 vouchers. The problem: federally subsidized rents are lower than the market rent right now, and the rental market is tight, so landlords can kick out the tenants and get new, unsubsidized tenants paying higher rents. Many of the Section 8 tenants in the Burnsville apartments are disabled. One tenant’s story:

“[Roy] Gunn, 50, uses a wheelchair and appreciates the complex’s proximity to the commercial area near Burnsville Center. Access to shopping and mass transit can be important to Section 8 renters because they often do not have cars.

“Gunn has called about 40 places but hasn’t found another apartment.”

Although he’s losing his apartment and can’t find another, some might call Gunn lucky. At least he has a Section 8 voucher. For people without a voucher, there’s not much hope — the line is so long that you can’t even get on a waiting list in Bloomington, Columbia Heights, Dakota County, Hopkins, Minneapolis, Mound, Plymouth, Richfield, St. Louis Park, St. Paul … and the list goes on.

One bright spot: the just-passed bonding bill provides $100 million for housing.

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2 responses to “Poor people, housing and a ray of hope

  1. Pingback: Just saying no to affordable housing | News Day

  2. Pingback: Good news, bad news for dogs, cats and renters | News Day

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