Shoreview launches trio of affordable housing programs

Shoreview launches trio of affordable housing programs

Shoreview leaders want to make sure families of modest means can afford to live in their city. So the largely middle-class east metro suburb is launching a trio of efforts to foster more affordable housing.

Shoreview’s new first-time home buyer assistance program offers up to $15,000 in financial help to income-qualifying individuals and families.

It has created a more robust home improvement loan program and, for the first time, has made the city’s 214 manufactured homes eligible for assistance.

Shoreview also is poised to become the first city in Ramsey County to require 10 percent of its newly built apartments to be affordable.

City officials have included the language in their new 2040 comprehensive plan and are expected to consider a specific resolution later this year.

"We want to have an impact by doing the right thing when we can," said Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin.

Shoreview joins a growing list of middle- to upper-class Twin Cities suburbs — including Edina, Bloomington, Golden Valley and St. Louis Park — that are taking steps to increase affordable housing, often through mixed-income developments and by helping those on the bubble stay in their homes.

"Ten years ago, it was a nonstarter. People felt mixed income was a good idea but didn’t know how to make it happen," said Tara Beard, a Metropolitan Council housing policy analyst.

Now some suburbs are addressing affordable housing head-on in both long-range planning and specific ordinances that include 10 percent affordability rules.

In 2014, the Met Council released its first regional affordable housing policy plan in three decades. The report forecast that 39,700 new affordable housing units will be needed across the region from 2021 to 2030 and asked cities to plan for their share. The Met Council hired two planners who specialize in housing policy to assist cities in planning.

Some cities bristled, but others are trying to answer the call. Shoreview leaders say that bolstering affordable options for new and existing families isn’t just a feel-good measure, it’s a survival tactic.

"For Shoreview, we realized our employers need housing for their employees," Martin said.

The home improvement loan program, capped at $25,000 for standard homes and $10,000 for manufactured homes, is intended to improve the look and safety of the city’s housing. Martin said she felt strongly about offering fixer-upper loans to owners of manufactured homes because of the number of young families that live in Shoreview’s sole manufactured home community, at the corner of Lexington Avenue and County Road J.

"We know that there are many children living in our manufactured housing communities," Martin said. "It’s really important to provide stability for kids."

Shoreview has allotted $1 million to its first-time home buyer assistance and fixer-upper fund, said Assistant City Manager Tom Simonson. While the former expands affordable housing, the latter maintains affordable options that already exist. Both programs have some income restrictions.

"We recognize a lot of our more affordable housing is older, and there has been a lot of deferred maintenance," Simonson said.

While Minneapolis and St. Paul long have offered these types of programs, suburbs are starting to show more interest, said Jason Peterson, CEO of the nonprofit — NeighborWorks Home Partners — that will administer Shoreview’s new programs. Suburbs are showing their age and want to short-circuit the disinvestment and eventual decay that hurt some urban neighborhoods decades ago, he said.

Carey Nadeau, her husband, Ben, and their 10-year-old son just remodeled the kitchen in their split level home with the help of a North St. Paul fixer-upper loan. The kitchen was straight out of 1977, when the house was built. "Everything needed updating," she said.

Nadeau, who works for a division of Hennepin County, said the low-interest loan was a "godsend." The remodeling project includes a new pantry and cabinets, a portable island and a farmhouse sink.

"It makes me so happy every time I walk into the kitchen. It makes me want to stay in the house even longer," Nadeau said.

Shannon Prather covers Ramsey County for the Star Tribune. Previously, she covered philanthropy and nonprofits. Prather has two decades of experience reporting for newspapers in Minnesota, California, Idaho, Wisconsin and North Dakota. She has covered a variety of topics including the legal system, law enforcement, education, municipal government and slice-of-life community news.

Shannon.Prather@startribune.com 612-673-4804 ShannonMPrather

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