Archive for November, 2018

Construction Underway (Finally!) on Minnehaha Commons

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

Before any construction project breaks ground, there is a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony. Alliance Housing hosted the groundbreaking for Minnehaha Commons on September 13th. The event was well attended by board members and friends of Alliance Housing, neighbors, and members of the project development team.  Pastor Ingrid Rasmussen from the neighboring congregation of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church offered a blessing for future residents of Minnehaha Commons.  MN Department of Human Services Commissioner Piper shared her department’s beliefs that stable housing is essential for the health and well-being of older adults.  The department’s early investment in the project was a catalyst for other government funding.  City Councilmember Cam Gordon welcomed Alliance to the neighborhood.  The City’s investment follows its priorities of housing some of the City’s lowest income and most vulnerable citizens.

Watson Forsberg and TRI Construction began digging dirt the week of Oct 22nd.  The project is slated to be completed and fully leased by September 2019.  Stay tuned for a ribbon cutting celebration and sneak preview tours.  We are excited to make Minnehaha Commons home for 44 single adults, aged 55+ with a history of homelessness.

2011 Pillsbury Renovation – A Place to Gather

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

It’s been a long time coming, but finally, the residents at 2011 Pillsbury will have a new community room in which to gather.

There will be an Open House on Friday, November 9th, to unveil the room, and to thank all the people who made the room possible, from the paint on the walls, to the furnishings.

Residents will enjoy the easy chair, couch, and TV. They’ll be able to chat, watch the Vikings game, work on a group craft, or play cards. Although the residents like having their own private rooms, they also crave time with their neighbors, as evidenced by high attendance at monthly dinners where they sit around and chat long after the meal is finished. It will be a great place for residents to relax and reconnect.

Politics With A Small “p”

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

The day Mayor Frey announced $40 million in housing funding in his 2019 budget was a good day – and proof that our work in the policy and communications arena can pay off.  Alliance Housing, primarily Director Barb Jeanetta and Intern Ryan Cirillo, have been active in the Make Homes Happen campaign.   The campaign is made up of nonprofit developers, service providers and tenant advocates focused on increased resources and better policy to support tenants and owners of affordable housing in the City of Minneapolis.  Primarily, the group has been advocating for $50 million in dedicated funding for affordable housing production, preservation and tenant protections over the next 10 years.  The group considers Mayor Frey’s $40 million one year commitment a good start and is now working with Council Members to maintain and or increase that amount and make it a more permanent annual amount.

Over the last 6 months, Ryan has been updating our tenant survey. Alliance created the biennial tenant survey in order to identify the policy issues that our tenants are most invested in. As a result, when Alliance intervenes in local and state politics, we can more accurately advocate for our tenants because we have an abundance of data telling us where they stand on important issues.

This year, we spoke to 50 tenants from nearly all properties, including Hiawatha Commons and Gateway Lofts. We found that, in the past two years since the last survey, our tenants have become increasingly concerned with how the housing market interacts with the criminal justice system, the issue of affordable housing, and living wages/Social Security payments. Alliance intends on using this data to continue our history of advocating for our tenants’ rights.

During the next year, Alliance staff, board and tenants will continue to engage with Make Homes Happen and in the Homes For All MN coalition which is focused on State-level policy and resources.  We’re encouraged that the MN Council of Nonprofits is hiring a policy advocate to focus on economic security issues, including affordable health care and child care.  Those issues are of interest to our tenants and Alliance will find a good way to align.  We keep appraised of issues at the federal level that need our attention through our membership in the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Through the survey and staff relationships, we’ve been able to engage tenants in meetings with their elected official and other campaign & coalition events.  Board and staff also maintain relationships with elected officials in local, state and federal districts where we own properties.  From time to time, we engage donors who live in districts where key housing issues are playing out.

Alliance’s Housing Profile; rooms, family apartments, larger apartment buildings

Posted on: November 13th, 2018

41 sleeping rooms

You may have heard us talk about our sleeping rooms – an endangered species in the Twin Cities housing market.  41 adult men and women call Alliance’s rooms “home.”  Rooms rent for around $350 per month – an amount affordable to someone living on a fixed disability award or $9-$12 hour per hour wages at jobs without regular schedules.  Tenants live an average of 4 years in Alliance’s rooms.  20% have called it home for over 5 years and 7% over 10 years.  Residents give up a bit of privacy for the affordable rent and share a kitchen and bathroom with other unrelated adults.  They cannot have overnight guests .

Dustin was homeless for at least three years before becoming a resident at Alliance’s rooming house. This will be his third winter of stable housing. When Dustin first moved in, he had many problems with drinking, partying with drunk friends, and disturbing his neighbors. Working with Dustin’s case manager through Catholic Charities, Alliance’s property manager, Bob Bono, repeatedly tried to re-direct bad behavior in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. Dustin eventually realized that having a home was more important than drinking to excess and allowing his friends to party in his room. He’s now on good terms with his neighbors and is working hard to keep it that way. He now sees himself as part of the community.

While Dustin has had his ups and downs with his neighbors in the past – “it’s not Sesame Street” he says, he likes that he knows his neighbors, and that people at the rooming house look out for each other. One thoughtful neighbor occasionally leaves a hot cup of coffee outside his door in the morning. Another neighbor was happy when Dustin gave him a pair of jeans. Many residents set things out on the lobby table for taking – a book, candy, playing cards – and these things always find a new home. He also enjoys the monthly community meals at the rooming house, hosted by the Sahades family from Ebenezer Fellowship SDA Church. He and his neighbors sit around and chat, long after they have finished eating.

Dustin is currently unemployed. He admits to a criminal history, and mental health and chemical dependency “demons” all of which make it hard to find a job. But Dustin is getting counseling, and he wants to get training to become a licensed forklift operator, work that he has done before, and enjoyed. In the meantime, he tries to keep himself busy by taking long walks and bike rides around the city, playing cards with friends, and sharing meals at Simpson. He relishes playing cribbage and carries his cribbage board with him, so he is ready to play anytime.

Dustin is happy to be a resident of Alliance Housing. He’s building up a good rental history. He’s proud to be managing his money and taking care of himself. He’s grateful that he’s in a stable home, where he doesn’t have to “lie, cheat, or steal” to survive.

40 family apartments

The City of Minneapolis is 70% single family homes and smaller multi-unit properties – duplexes, four-plexes etc.  These multi-unit homes, embedded in neighborhoods with proximity to schools and parks are great family housing.  Alliance’s two bedroom apartments rent for around $750 per month.  Three bedroom apartments rent for around $850 month.  Families wouldn’t be able to find comparable housing in Minneapolis neighborhoods without paying $300-$500 more per month.  Alliance’s tenants earn less than $20,250 per year – they are food service workers, janitors, day care workers, customer service personnel etc. Families stay an average of 3+ years and 24% have called us home for 5 or more years.

It’s clear when you enter Anitra’s apartment on Penn Avenue that she is proud of her home. Shoes are neatly lined up at the door. It’s quiet and calm. Her toddler daughter’s artwork is carefully displayed. Anitra is happy to provide a stable home for her two children, who have never known homelessness. She’s been in her Alliance home for almost a year.

Currently, Anitra is a stay-at-home mom, but she looks forward to enrolling the girls in daycare, and then getting a job, perhaps in the hospitality industry.

In the past, Anitra spent five years being homeless, which for her meant sleeping on the streets, huddling in her car, staying in shelters, and house-hopping at her mother’s, father’s, and brother’s homes – no way to live. Once she got connected with services through St. Stephen’s and then housing with Alliance, things began looking up for Anitra, and she could settle into her new home. The building is close to a park where her daughters can play. It is conveniently located on a high-frequency bus line, with many stores and amenities nearby. The laundry is right downstairs. Most of all, she doesn’t have to worry. She and her family are secure for now. They have clothing, food, and a place to keep their possessions. It’s called “home.”

Alliance is able to keep rents extra affordable in rooms and family apartments to very low income adults through non-amortizing government capital funding and charitable donations.

Hiawatha Commons and Gateway Lofts

Alliance built Hiawatha Commons in 2005 and Gateway Lofts in 2010.  Both properties took advantage of the federal low income housing tax credit for construction.  Broen Housing, our long time real estate development consultants, also helped Alliance acquire additional non-amortizing debt to assure rents remain affordable for the long run.

Hiawatha’s 80 apartments are nearing their 14th birthday.  The building still looks physically great and commons spaces clean.  Hayes Gibson, our contracted property manager, does a terrific job in maintenance as well as tenant relations.  It was one of the first affordable rental properties built to take advantage of the light rail line on the Hiawatha corridor.  Clerks and service workers from the airport can live and get to work without the expense of a car.  Others take advantage of the varied bus routes nearby to get downtown and to suburban work locations.  Some are fortunate to be able to walk to nearby retail and other employers.

Gateway Lofts located near Thomas on West Broadway was built in 2010 to expand the type of units available at Hiawatha.  Its 46 apartments were some of the first few affordable newly constructed buildings on West Broadway which laid the foundation for market rate apartments today.  Gateway is home to a number of adults who move around in a wheel chair or motorized cart.  Options for mobility handicapped persons were limited in North Minneapolis until newer properties became available.

At both properties, studio apartments, some with balconies, rent for an average of $500 per month.  1 bedroom apartments rent from $465-865 per month.  A handful of 2 bedroom apartments rent for about $1000 per month.  Households need to earn less than $19,850 for most of the studios.  Three person households need to earn less than $42,450 for the 2 bedroom apartments.  Both properties are home to tenants who moved in shortly after construction.

Renisha, her husband, and three children thrive in the 4-story community that has been their home for almost a decade. Like Renisha, many of our residents have families, and appreciate Alliance’s quiet, safe, and stable housing at Hiawatha Commons. In addition to the convenience of having nearby transportation and shopping, Renisha likes that neighbors know each other. She is thankful that on-site staff keeps everything clean, repaired, and most importantly, friendly and caring. She loves that her children go to school with other children in the building. Renisha is grateful that Alliance leased to her years ago and let her move into larger apartments as her family grew. Stable housing has provided a solid foundation for she and her family.

Video Highlights Alliance Tenant

Posted on: November 6th, 2018

Construction on Minnehaha Commons is recently underway.  As noted before, the property will be home to 44 adults, aged 55 years or older with a history of homelessness.  Older adults are a rapidly expanding portion of the homeless singles living in shelters in the community. In 2009, 11% of those who stayed overnight in shelters in Hennepin County were over 55. By 2015 that percentage had doubled. Given the demographic trends regarding the aging of the population as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is inevitable that the problem will continue to grow.

The staff and leadership of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) responded to Alliance’s very early questions about resources to house older adults who had experienced homelessness.  An early investment of DHS Live Well at Home funds (LWAH), was a catalyst investment and leverage for other public resources.

This video was produced as part of the 2017 LWAH grant award program.  Alliance Housing’s tenant, Pat Straw, is featured along with other older adults who also have experienced homelessness.  Their stories highlight some of the challenges of finding and keeping affordable housing by older adults.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQR1ACsEDok

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