The following is from Questions and Answers from Polina Montes de Oca, the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity Neighborhood Revitalization Program Manager, and answers from the original Vote NO candidate for Ward 6 City Council. The Forum was to be held on October 5, 2019.
The City needs to re-do-the- tool -box. The regulatory powers of the city are simply not Neighborhood Friendly. The City’s regulatory tools are wedded to a model that still works for the large property developers that are making millions developing the Green Line Corridor with their army of architects, planners, lawyers, finance experts and union tradespeople. The City is set up to cater to the needs of the Big Boys; not neighborhoods and individuals or small business people.
We need a new model to plan and permit the rehabilitation of the single family and duplex structures that could help fill the gap in the affordable housing crisis in the short term if the City Council is willing to make the policy changes need to accommodate individual homeowner/investors and small business rehabbers. Given the hundreds of vacant homes in the City the City Council must be willing to operate outside the regulatory model that has helped to create and perpetuate the current problem. Saint Paul is not Detroit and we must stop demolishing homes as part of some final solution that keeps people from living in an affordable home that they can call their own.
The City of Saint Paul in addition to the $2 million Housing Trust Fund, also provides Capital Improvement Budget dollars to about a dozen neighborhood not for profits to develop housing opportunities with about $3 million in 2019 and $2 million for 2020.
None of this is enough to make a significant difference in the current housing crisis. The City must attract outside dollars to create the affordable housing stock we need and to do it we must get the statutory caps on Housing Tax Credits used by the MN Housing Finance Agency to sell tax free housing bonds to private investors removed during this crisis. How is it in the public interest to limit
private investment in affordable housing? It isn’t!
Poverty has made it’s home on the East Side and their is no Cavalry that is coming rescue us from this man-made disaster. We need to see the 200 vacant buildings on the East Side as resources that can be turned into homes with affordable mortgages for which the City should remove all barriers to rehabilitation, such as eliminating building permit fees and other regulatory costs. We need a special unit in Planning and Economic Development to manage our way out of this inventory of over 500 vacant buildings city wide and that does not mean relying on bulldozers and clam-shells to continue to tear down this housing stock. I want to see the City be creative and wise with it’s resources to leverage all other available funds such as Livable Community dollars from the Met Council. Without looking outside the status quo box we will be adding more houses that were homes to the vacant property list.
Density is not an issue in the short term. People who have invested in their neighborhoods deserve the City’s protection of their investment. On the East Side we have always welcomed more dense housing options, as the current number of such properties gives testimony too. When developers have wanted to build high density buildings we have welcomed them and as a senior single family homeowner I certainly support building more senior friendly buildings, which would also serve a young family that needs a big home and backyard.
Housing quality is always an issue in an area with many 100 year old homes as well as post World War II homes and a large percentage of people living in poverty. These updating and maintenance issues present for both homeowners and landlords. This is an area where we have looked to neighborhood based organizations to play a role assisting low income homeowners with forgivable loans or other financing to make it possible for people to stay in their homes. We should continue these programs for homeowners, working families and seniors as well as explore new options for assisting landlords finance repairs to keep families in safe homes and apartments.