Archive for the ‘News’ Category

100% of funds secured to build 43 studios for homeless adults

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017

Alliance Housing Fully Funded for Minnehaha Commons Project

43 units of affordable housing will be constructed for extremely low-income seniors.

Minneapolis, October 31, 2017:  Minnesota Housing announced on October 17th that $126 million will be invested in affordable housing across the state. Alliance Housing received $5,146,302 in deferred funds for Minnehaha Commons to be located on Lake Street in Minneapolis. With this award, the project is now fully funded. Other funders include the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and private investors. Minnehaha Commons will provide 43 units of affordable housing, in partnership with Touchstone Mental Health, for extremely low-income seniors who have experienced homelessness.

According to the Wilder Foundation’s homeless survey, seniors are the fastest growing segment of homeless people. Alliance Housing is uniquely positioned to successfully house this population because of its previous experience serving seniors in rooming houses. Alliance’s tenant service coordinators and property managers build trusting relationships with tenants, discuss problems, identify options for maintaining housing stability and increasing self-sufficiency, and assist tenants to choose their community services.

Alliance Housing’s model offers a solution for housing stability for people who are traditionally denied housing opportunities because of their low-income, poor rental and criminal histories, and/or a history of homelessness. Homeless studies show that many homeless people also experience mental health symptoms. Supportive services designed to successfully house this population will be offered at Minnehaha Commons by Touchstone Mental Health through supports that utilize best practices, address underlying mental health conditions, and support whole person wellness and self-sufficiency.

Alliance’s work makes it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background by developing and managing housing that is: inclusive, affordable, relational, and, flexible. In addition, Alliance Housing challenges the environment that limits its residents’ opportunities. Neighbors and tenants alike say Alliance’s properties are the “best on the block.”

Alliance Housing’s 2017 Annual Fundraising Breakfast

Posted on: June 30th, 2017

Crowd shot resizedThanks to those of you who joined us for the 2017 Alliance Housing’s Annual Fundraising Breakfast on Sept. 28th.  Our guests, sponsors and donors helped us raise nearly $80,000 to support our work.  Pat, 2011 Pillsbury resident, shared how Alliance helped him when he was homeless and again after his stroke.  Until his stroke, Pat worked hard at D’Amico catering and helped refer other tenants to jobs.  Gloria, former tenant and Northside Supportive Housing for Families participant, shared her successes with Sue Roedl’s suport – a GED, increasing wages, better credit, training and now homeownership.  Gloria accomplished this as a single Mom of 5 kids.  Amazing!

 

Houses History & Hope – A benefit for Alliance Housing Inc.

Posted on: April 11th, 2017

Ben at Cream of Wheat houseAlliance Housing’s board chair hosted two walking tours around Lake of the Isles on May 14 and June 25th. 40-50 people joined us both days to learn more about the history of Minneapolis and its parks. A former history teacher, Olk shared stories and details about some of the stately houses around the lake. He talked about the people who designed, built and originally lived in them. In addition to these impressive homes, Olk also discussed how Minneapolis and its citizens have responded to the housing needs of those who are less fortunate. Guests also learned about Alliance Housing who has been creating housing alternatives for people in poverty and those on the margins for more than 25 years. Alliance makes it possible for individuals and families to create homes for themselves, regardless of income and background, by developing and managing housing that is inclusive, affordable, and relationship-based.
If you are interested in future tours feel free to contact Barb @ bjeanetta@alliancehousinginc.org or 612-879-7633.

Seven men share one common story of a second chance.

Posted on: December 1st, 2016

By Tessa Williams.

For the men living at our Fremont property, finding a safe, affordable place to live has never been easy. Seven of our residents here came to us through Better Futures (Better Futures is an immersive program that gives men who have experienced prison, poverty, homelessness and untreated disabilities the training and resources they need to become independent). These men are now enjoying having their own apartment for the first time in their lives. I sat down with three residents, JT, Greg and Michael, to hear what having their own apartment means to them. Their responses shared common themes of safety, peace and quiet, freedom, pride and dignity.
“There’s a yearn for privacy, especially as you get older and start to get to know yourself,” says JT, now 40 years old. Growing up, he says, “I never had my own bedroom and at times had no bedroom.” For JT, having his own apartment gives him a sense of peace and tranquility. “You can come home to a safe space to be by yourself after a long day… You have the ability to relax and decorate your apartment and let it mean something to you.” JT’s previous living situations give him a strong appreciation for a safe, peaceful environment. In one place he lived after prison, he paid rent for six month but estimates that he didn’t sleep in his room for more than three nights because it didn’t feel safe. In another, he paid a woman with a cocaine addiction about $300 a month to live in what he called “a closet.” For men of color with a criminal record like JT, rental screening for safe housing so often forces them into dangerous housing situations, often in the same environment that got them in trouble in the first place.
Greg also mentioned peace and quiet as one of the positives in living at Fremont. He says having his own apartment makes it easier to focus on school. In June, Greg completed an associate’s degree in culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu. By February, he will also have an associate’s degree in pastry. The other men at Fremont love that Greg is studying pastry because he frequently brings home sweets to share with them. Right now he’s doing an externship at Cookie Cart, a nonprofit bakery in North Minneapolis. Greg also enjoys having his own key to the building and the dignity of being able to come and go as he pleases without a curfew. At 53 years old, Greg doesn’t like to stay out late, but he still appreciates the freedom to set his own schedule.
Just down the hall, Michael says having his own room gives him more flexibility when looking for work. When he shared a bedroom at the Better Futures guest house, his roommate would be getting ready for work when he was getting ready for bed. Now Michael has the freedom to take night shift jobs that pay better and still sleep well during the day. Another benefit of living at Fremont, Michael says, is that “you don’t have to worry about your neighbors.” He likes that he knows the other men from Better Futures and that the guys look out for each other. But the change that mattered most to Michael was the confidence that came with paying rent. At 53, Michael had never had his own apartment, and he felt it was a stepping stone to adulthood he had yet to reach. “When it’s something you’ve never done, you’re really scared you’re going to mess up,” Michael said. After he paid his first month’s rent, Michael felt a huge weight lifted off his shoulders. After a few months, he says, it feels pretty manageable.
I asked Greg, JT and Michael where they see themselves in the future. Greg says he might move back to Chicago to take care of his mother in a few years. But as long as he stays in the Twin Cities, Greg sees himself staying at Fremont—the rent is the most affordable for what Alliance offers, and like Michael, he likes knowing his neighbors. JT is grateful for his apartment but aspires to own his own house. He recently started his own roofing and gutter business, and if business stays as good as it’s been lately, his dream could well become a reality. Michael says he would like to look into some programs self-improvement. While Greg, JT and Michael are all at different points in their lives, with different interests and aspirations, it’s clear that they all share an appreciation for a safe home and a second chance.

Patricia Anne Smith Neir Memorial

Posted on: September 1st, 2016

Longtime (& very active) Alliance Housing Board member, Fran Neir, and his wife, Patti Anne Smith Neir, made us the memorial beneficiary with Patti’s recent death.  We are humbled and grateful for the outpouring of love towards the Neir family and will steward the resources well helping single adults and families create stable homes for themselves and their children.  Stable housing is the foundation of accomplishing anything in one’s life.   All gifts will be formally acknowledged by Alliance and the list of donors shared with Fran.

A Life Ended Too Soon

Posted on: July 12th, 2016

Thank you to Lawrence Young, a neighbor, who shared this store about Dwayne.

Thirty years of oblivion. That’s what most of us would consider the last half of the life of Dewayne Fleming, most commonly known as Brillo on the streets of Minneapolis. But after being shot and stabbed more than once, that is not the term that he would use to describe it. Being kidnapped and locked in a trunk for days only adds to the color of the man who told me “I like my women so black they just short of blue.”
We met after Dewayne was released from Hennepin County hospital where he had spent a considerable amount of time being treated for congestive heart failure. When I visited him there I could see when his memory kicked in and he recognized me. I hadn’t seen him in years but I could tell he had something funny to say but the tubes he was attached to kept him from talking. That’s the first and last time I ever saw him at a loss for words.
I became Dewayne’s neighbor and moved into a place across the hall from him. Everyday we spent hours in the kitchen sharpening each other across the table with our experiences and wisdom until breakfast was ready. We had the best soul kitchen in the city. We were the bean and cornbread brothers and it was doing good things for the both of us. Dewayne lost weight and seemed to be improving in health. Although he was confined to a certain part of town for a long time, his conversation covered the universe. His comments didn’t come from out of left field but the other side of the cotton field where truth was spoken and it trumped feelings. His views were raw and as he understood it. He loved to tell me ways of outsmarting or maneuver any obstacle the system could offer.
It was during one of these sessions that I realized I was talking to my medical advisor. I had injuries from an auto accident and had no idea how to negotiate the medical field, which was to me, a quagmire between someone who needs treatment and the medical and insurance fields. One day as I was leaving on my quest for treatment Dewayne stopped me and said, “You bout to walk into the lions’ den wearing bacon underwear. Take me with you and do what I tell you and we’ll get all that done today.”
When I got back home I had everything I needed to start my recovery. He explained not only the mechanics of how these fields work but the psychology of them. He made me understand that the medical field was full of hoops to jump through guaranteed to frustrate the insincere and timid as well as those in need. He explained job titles and what the duties behind them were supposed to be. He was like my personal PHD on the subject.
Whenever we went somewhere in my car I felt like I was driving Denzel Washington around. Waves and acknowledgements came from everybody that saw him along the way. Every stop light meant a conversation with someone in the next car, on the street corner, or on the bus stop. He was a bonafide celebrity.
Brother Bishop, as some of us called him, was crude but unpretentious. He always told me to count my blessings and not my troubles. He was the absolute funniest man I ever met while expressing sage wisdom at the same time. He told me he’d had a beautiful life because God hadn’t let him die from all the tribulation he’d been through. All his anecdotes were about his experiences on the streets. He had made his peace with God but his mind couldn’t escape the last 30 years. One Saturday, after 30 years of living everywhere, Bishop Dewayne Fleming died AT HOME.

Tenant Profile: Selena

Posted on: December 8th, 2015

Selena and Shaun

 

 

Selena has a lot to be proud of. She works full time as a Credit Advisor at Target Corporate, making $15.50 an hour, while raising her son, Sean, who just turned two in November. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana in 2011, has a degree in cosmetology, and moved to Minneapolis in May of 2014. In June 2014, Selena came to our program when she found herself without a home. Although she had experienced homelessness as a child, this was her first time encountering homelessness as an adult. While at the shelter, Selena met Melanie, who works with our Northside Supportive Families Program, and got accepted into the program, working at both Target and the Children’s Place for $8.20 an hour.

Unhappy with the late hours and low wage, Selena left her retail jobs for a position with Wells Fargo. After being with Wells Fargo for six months, she applied for a job with Target Corporate and got accepted to the position she now has, which she loves. Making nearly double what she earned at the start of the program, Selena has been able to pay off $1,000 in debt, while budgeting money to save for a car. She is proud to have raised her credit score, and that she has enough discipline to pay off what debt she still has left. Having the past experience of raising her credit score, she is calm despite recent bumps in the road, knowing that she has the skills needed to manage her money and get back to where she wants to be. She’s also started couponing, and managing her money makes her hopeful that she’ll be sufficient on her own.

One quote Selena goes by is, “think rich, look poor.” As she describes it, “Right now, (living this way), it’s only temporary— save, reach your goals to do what you dream of. Right now you don’t have to buy all of the fancy materials, but live within your means and plan for the future. I’m thinking for the future rather than living rich now. That’s what a lot of people do, I’m trying to do the opposite.”

Although she isn’t currently using her cosmetology degree, she is working on getting licensed in Minnesota so she can have the career she dreams of. She’s proud to be saving and building a cushion of stability through her career at Target, while watching Sean grow up and become “this new person”, a sometimes bossy two year old who loves the word “mine”.

More than anything, Selena is hopeful for stability. “I hope for stability, that’s all I hope for. I just want my kid to be in a good school and for me to be able to provide for the both of us.”

What Sets Us Apart

Posted on: November 12th, 2015

Alliance Housing is 25 years old.  Though many things have changed over time such as staff, leadership, office address, and numbers of properties owned. Our mission and values have remained steadfast.  We believe the totality of the following attributes are what sets us apart from most housing agencies and organizations, and make us good stewards of the gifts we’ve received over the years from many generous individuals and foundations.

  • We’re in the business of housing people – not screening them out. Everyone deserves a 2nd
  • Our operations and decision making begins with the lives and realities of our tenants – balanced with the bottom line. We’ve kept our rents some of the most affordable in the market.
  • Our resources primarily cover property management operations and tenant services – not administration, fundraising and marketing. We’re lean and effective.
  • Our supportive housing program rewards people for working. Coaching helps parents learn new skills that can help them sustain housing and advance in employment long term.

Remaining committed to these attributes has allowed us to establish a critical niche in the affordable housing world. That may sound like standard nonprofit marketing claims but we’ve got evidence to back it up.  Our phones ring off the hook from people who are denied housing because of their criminal, housing or credit history.  A quick survey of our scattered site rental property tenants indicates that up to  70% have criminal issues in their background.  Many of these tenants have also been homeless or stuck in low wage jobs.  Because they’ve been poor, many have eviction, unpaid rent and other bills in their past.  Alliance’s 2nd chance policy gives them the opportunity to prove they can be a good tenant.  And most are, – they pay their rent, mostly on time, and respect their apartment and neighbors.  As a result, our uncollected rent and loss from vacant units is under 5%.

Our tenant’s wellbeing is a core focus in everything we do, from budget changes to our board selection processes.  At budget preparation time, the board is always cognizant of the impacts any rent related changes will have on our tenants, especially those living on fixed incomes.  Tenants have a direct voice in board decisions because they make up 25% of its members.

In regards to use of our resources, our audit has tracked our expenses over the years to be around 94% programs, 4% management and 2% fundraising.  Our management and fundraising percentages have never been higher than 8%.

Our 34 families who are participating in our Northside Supportive Housing for Families program are demonstrating higher wages and monthly income the longer they participate.  They earn a $200-$300 monthly subsidy when they are working 25-35 hours per month.  This gives them a cushion in their monthly budget which helps with saving money and paying off old bills.  Some of them are experiencing the longest tenure in housing and employment.  In more traditional public rent assistance programs, their subsidies would be higher if they were unemployed – creating (we believe) a disincentive to work.

2015 Annual Report

Posted on: September 21st, 2015

Alliance’s 2015 Annual Report is here! You can learn more about Alliance’s accomplishments and plans, and our amazing tenants and volunteers by clicking on the link below.

Alliance 2015 Annual Report

 

Alliance AR Final cover

Annual Fundraising Breakfast

Posted on: September 3rd, 2015

Thank you to the 170+ guests who joined us on October 8th for our Alliance Housing annual fundraising breakfast.  Tenants, Greg Mure and Brenda Connell, stole the show by sharing their stories and how stable housing has helped them move forward in their lives.  Thanks to our terrific and generous sponsors who along with our guest’s generous donations and matches from the Pohlad Family and Frey Foundation matches exceed our fundraising goal.

We depend on the generosity of donations to allow us to keep our rents affordable to very low wage workers and disabled adults – many of whom would be seriously challenged to find housing elsewhere.  Gifts also support our innovative Northside Supportive Housing for Families program – providing housing subsidies that incent work, not unemployment.

Rooming Houses Are an Important Part of the Affordable Housing Patchwork

Posted on: April 16th, 2015

By Barbara Jeanetta, Executive Director of Alliance Housing Inc.

I read almost weekly about the ills of rooming house life. My google alerts bring me stories of fire, over –crowding, and substandard conditions. In Minneapolis, zoning codes prohibit new rooming house licenses. Some of you will be surprised to hear that there are still a few rooming houses out there. I toured a few existing properties a few years ago and found many of the properties worn out, but at full occupancy.

Alliance Housing gets multiple calls every day from single adults looking for an apartment. Some are not too keen on the idea of sharing a kitchen and bathroom with other adults until they learn they’ll have a lease in their name and rent is under $350. Once they are in our attractive, well-cared for building in Whittier, or one of our properties in the Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central neighborhoods, they quite happily settle in having more control over their housing situation than they’ve had for a long while.

A profile of our rooming house tenants makes it hard to put a finger on exactly who needs this type of housing. Our tenants who rent rooms are varied: men, women, working, not working, old, young. 38% of them are working, 45% are disabled and on some sort of government program, 14% are retired and receive a government or VA pension. The kinds of jobs our tenants have range from parking lot attendant to retail clerk, from fast food and janitorial work to day care. A few work seasonal landscaping and construction labor jobs. The most unique employment is a job on the carnival circuit. Some jobs pay cash. Most pay no benefits.

At an average income of $11,734, men and women who want their own place are well matched with the price of rent in an Alliance room. The average one bedroom apartment in south Minneapolis costs $788 per month. To pay 30% of one’s income or less for this rent would take a minimum wage person 65 hours per week or a much higher wage at less hours. Alliance’s rooms are affordable under the same terms for 27 hours per week.

24 of 27 tenants at our Pillsbury rooming house over the past year had lived there over 6 months. The longest tenured tenant has been there 15 years. The average tenancy is 3.5 years. There is no time limit for how long someone lives in the rooming house as long as they are paying their rent and respecting the property and their neighbors, but we hope some are able to move on to a bigger place of their own. Some find the price aligns with their income and are quite satisfied. Some get asked to move on after unsuccessful attempts to negotiate and collect rent or because of their inability to control either their own behavior or the behavior of friends.

Alliance supports the tenants’ sense of community and enforces a few rules to keep its rooming house calm and an asset to tenants and neighbors alike. Over the past year, police were called 27 times. More than 75% of the calls were for issues the police keep anonymous – help with issues related to mental health and issues that don’t involve a crime. Admittedly, six were for fights or concerns about drug activity. We take those seriously and follow-up to ensure they don’t happen again, at least with that tenant at our property.

A recent editorial by Ed Murphy of Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless noted that we have eliminated much of the housing in this community for tenants like Alliance’s at 2011 Pillsbury. Urban renewal cleared out residential hotels and pay-by-the-week housing to make way for high amenity condos and apartments in downtown Minneapolis. Coupled with higher incarceration rates and deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill without good solutions on the other side, the number of homeless adults who can’t afford or get screened out of today’s affordable housing options continues to increase. Well-run rooming houses like Alliance’s are part of the solution. Better public policy and use of government support would encourage their presence and focus on keeping them well-managed in order to keep low-wage and low-income adults housed.

Lynne’s departure

Posted on: April 7th, 2015

We bid farewell and thank you to Administrative Coordinator, Lynne Rectenwald, in February.  Lynne joined Alliance Housing in 2010.  Kudos thrown her way at her farewell lunch included:  she brought polish and professionalism to Alliance’s events, she tackled and organized the mountains of paperwork that had accumulated at Alliance, she brought a positive, can do attitude to all of her work.  We were lucky to have someone of Lynne’s talents and wish her well as she returns to the world of meeting planning fulltime.

New Sites!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Funding and re-development plans continue for a project to serve homeless adults, 55 years and older. Alliance staff are evaluating the re-use of a building at 201 Lake Street or a vacant lot to provide safe and secure housing as a base for a better quality of life for these folks. St. Stephens Human Service’s Community Engagement Team assisted Alliance in hosting a focus group of older adults who had experienced homelessness. We plan to use their wise advice to guide or work on this project. If you have ideas or advice to help us advance the project, please call or email Barb.

New Board Members!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

Alliance is led by 14 members of our Board of Directors. Miranda Walker and Mike Brown joined the group in October. Miranda is an emerging leader in the affordable housing development world. Mike is a seasoned marketing and communications professional. They join a group that contributes management, legal, and finance skills along with a deep understanding of our tenants and neighborhoods where our properties are located.  Other members include:

 

Gail Dorfman, Kelly Elkin, Dean LeDoux, Carolyn Landrum, Chas Martin, Greg Mure, Fran Neir, Rick Nelson, Ben Olk III, Peter Sarafolean III, Marcy Shapiro and Kimberly Spates.

Thank You for Attending our Annual Breakfast!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015
One hundred sixty of our best and new friends gathered at the Town and Country Club on October 23rd to talk with each other, catch up, and hear a brief update on Alliance Housing’s programs, housing and operations. When tenant, Starisha Alexander, with her two young children in tow told about how they ended up homeless and couldn’t find housing due to a poor rental history, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Starisha is caring for the kids full-time while her husband works. She recently secured a part-time position that will allow her to work when her husband is home. Starisha thanked Alliance for giving she and her family a 2nd chance, for the beautiful and affordable apartment, and for providing work incentives that allow them to save money and pay down debt. We raised $69,000 including a generous match from the Frey Foundation.
You may have noticed that we don’t have a slick fundraising operation here at Alliance. We raise $74,000 in individual contributions and $124,500 from foundations to keep rents affordable to low wage workers and for services so that people can remain stably housed and advance their lives. The Executive Director with help from staff and board members organize events,write grants, and solicit donations through e-newsletters and an annual report. Otherwise, we balance our budget with rents and some public support of services. So needless to say, we’re thrilled with that breakfast tally. A gift of any size makes a valued and real contribution to our work. We are grateful to our 200+ individual donors who faithfully and generously keep us in their charitable investments each year.

Season Greetings from All of Us at Alliance Housing Inc!

Posted on: January 8th, 2015

We are grateful here at Alliance Housing. Ecoset Consulting donated 25 Christmas trees for families who are participating in Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families program. Two participants, Avery Webb and Tricia Smith, assisted Sue Roedl in delivering them to the homes of the families. The program helps homeless families break the cycle of generational poverty. Families exit shelter, learn to be good tenants and increase their income and education so that they can become economically self-sufficient. This is a long and rocky road for many. A little Christmas cheer never hurts. I am grateful for Sue Roedl, lead Supportive Services Coordinator of the program, who saw a posting for the donation and coordinated it from start to finish, including renting a truck and delivering the trees to each family. Sue’s work is testament to all Alliance employees and “the extra mile” they all go to assure our tenants remain stably housed, have access to resources and information to live independently and advance their lives, and keep our properties operating as the best on the block. I’m grateful that we have tenant participants that are willing to “give back”, as well.

 

We are grateful to all of you who take notice of our work, donate your time or resources and tell your friends about us. If you would like to learn more about us, tour a property, talk with staff or get engaged in some other way, please do not hesitate to call or email me.

 

Barbara J

Is Fair Housing Fair?

Posted on: January 7th, 2015

It depends on who you are.  Fair housing laws were created in 1968 to make sure landlords treated all potential tenants the same with screening procedures, tenant selection and application fees.  HUD hires people to test out fair housing laws and prosecutes those who aren’t treating applicants fairly.

I’d like to challenge the framework of fair housing rules where they are used to screen out certain classes and groups of people based on their criminal, credit and housing history.  While past behavior can be a good predictor of future behavior, it doesn’t allow for life circumstances or give someone a second chance to behave differently in the future.  I believe that the opportunity to get a second chance should be a cornerstone in the philosophy of all affordable housing developers and managers.  We use public dollars to serve people with low incomes, and people who for one reason or another face challenges in securing stable housing, because of a disability, a history of homelessness, or simply a history of poor decisions.

Let me offer a few examples of where I don’t think fair housing is fair.  Many affordable housing managers have a list of criminal issues that will screen out various types of felony offenses for a year, or five years, or ten years, or for life.  These are persons who have done their time and, in many cases, their probation or parole.  Nonetheless, they must continue to “serve time” by being barred from housing opportunities.  Police department crime prevention units exacerbate the problem by encouraging landlords to bar former criminals from their rental property.

Let’s say you are someone with a history, ready to turn your life in the right direction. If you are lucky enough to make it past the criminal background check, a landlord will most  likely  review your credit and housing history.  If you’ve been poor, you’ve probably not paid credit cards timely and likely had to give up an apartment because you couldn’t keep up with the rent.  Most recently, we’ve seen tenants facing a Catch-22 situation. Potential landlords insist that an applicant pay off a previous landlord for rent delinquencies before they will rent to them.   I am sympathetic to some extent; we all want to rent to people that will pay rent on time.  But we also know that there are myriad processes, both informal and legal, that a landlord can use to terminate the lease of a tenant delinquent on rent.  It should be within the scope of our mission to give someone a second chance, because it is possible to get them to voluntarily or legally move if they don’t.

Public resources to build affordable housing are scarce.  Competition to be awarded them is fierce.  I think most public funders want to prioritize the most needy.  Yet, best practices of property management, including  exclusionary tenant screening done in the name of fair housing, encourages just the opposite – excluding the most needy in favor of the least problematic.

Alliance Housing relies on relational property management and has almost no tenant screening criteria.  We take referrals from homeless shelters and other social service providers.  We house those other landlords screen out.  We know our tenants by name, know the ups and downs of their life, and work with them to keep them stably housed.  Our mantra, coined by our former Director, Herb Frey, is, “We’ll house you as long as you pay your rent (mostly on time) and behave yourself.”  We believe this is our mission.  If more landlords lived our mission, it would make many more housing units available without spending the money to build another unit.

Alliance Housing a New Chapter

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

new-developmentAlliance Housing Inc. is like an enduring classic novel. Its theme or story line remains unchanged. Give people a second chance. Rent to individuals and families with a history of homelessness, at the bottom end of the wage scale, and those who have often been screened out due to their rental or criminal history by other landlords. Make it work with simple expectations – pay rent mostly on time and behave as a good neighbor and tenant. Keep property management relational and lean. Develop new properties and rehab existing properties with no amortizing debt. Reach out to donors like yourselves to help us keep rents 15-25% below market so that our tenants can remain stably housed, retain jobs and get their kids to school. 2014 was a year of transition for Alliance Housing Inc. The board of directors stewarded the organization through a leadership change. To continue the book metaphor, it appears existing funders, partners and contributors have turned the page to the new chapter with us. The next real estate development chapter also contains some old and new. In the last chapter, some funding was raised for Jordan Apartments and a property to house homeless adults, aged 55+. Both have existing funding commitments from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines. In addition, Jordan has some funding from the City of Minneapolis and the 55+ project has funding from the Sisters of Carondelet and Mount Olive Lutheran Church. Opportunities and need abound. The board of directors used part of its August 2014 planning session to begin to provide focus and priority to future projects.

The Cover

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

the-coverA classic needs to have enduring qualities AND look good on the shelf to attract readers. We work hard to keep our properties “the best on the block.” In the last few months, we rebuilt a crumbling retaining wall at 2103 2nd Avenue S (pictured) and paved the parking area behind 3631 Penn Avenue N. Our maintenance staff faithfully keeps lawns mowed, landscaping weeded and trim, and snow removed. Occasionally, we get a little help picking up trash – the Longfellow Neighborhood engaged the VOA to clean up litter around the neighborhood and visited Hiawatha Commons this spring.

The Marketplace

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

In August 2014, Alliance increased its rents 2%. The board considered this decision in the context of the rental market, property cash flow and our tenantsʼ ability to pay. We donʼt take these decisions lightly. A $10 increase per month is a big challenge to someone living on a disability pension or someone whose low wage and fluctuating hours keep the monthly budget tight. A recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition analyzed how many hours a minimum wage worker had to work in order to afford an average cost 2 bedroom apartment. In MN, it was 91 hours per week. Alliance rents rooms with shared bath and kitchen facilities, studios and 1-3 bedroom apartments. A minimum wage worker would have to work 42 hours in a month to afford a room and 117 hours in a month to afford a 3 bedroom unit – well below the averages.

A Room With a View

Posted on: October 15th, 2014

room viewAlliance Housing Inc. is relatively unique in owning and managing rooms for single adults Alliance has 44 rooms – 25 in a rooming house at 2011 Pillsbury (picture) and the rest scattered among 7 properties in south Minneapolis. The advantages of renting a room are many: The rent can be as low as $330 – unheard of in todayʼs hot rental market. The room comes furnished – great for someone just starting out or starting their rental history again. The room is small – easy to keep clean. It provides safety and independence – providing a secure location for oneʼs belongings and in the company of others that can keep an eye on things. Our tenants who rent rooms are varied – men, women, working, not working, old, young. 38% of them are working. 45% are disabled and receiving some sort of government assistance. 14% are retired and receive a pension. The kinds of jobs the tenants have include parking lot attendant, retail clerk, fast food, janitorial, day care. A few work seasonal landscaping and construction labor jobs. The most unique employment is a job on the carnival circuit. Some jobs pay cash. Most pay no benefits.

Support Services Coordinators on the North Side

Posted on: September 15th, 2014

Melanie-post-imageWith recent investments from the Otto Bremer & WCA Foundation and Hennepin County, Alliance Housing will be able to double the size of our Northside Supportive Housing for Families program. We’ll expand from working with 26 families to 50 by the end of the year through agreements with other North Minneapolis rental property owners.

Melanie Williams will begin her work in early May, getting oriented alongside veteran, Sue Roedl, and building trusting relationships with families. Melanie says, “I’m excited about this opportunity to work as a Supportive Housing Coordinator with Alliance. The mission of the organization, as well as the program incentives that promote self-sufficiency among families to set goals that involve a career, training and education really resonate with what I’m passionate about. I am truly looking forward to working with families and supporting them in achieving their goals.”

Program Successes

Posted on: September 15th, 2014

We’re seeing promising results from participants in the Northside Supportive Housing for Families program.  They prove out the growing understanding that stable housing is a key to kids doing well in school, parents being more successful in work and overall family well-being. Here are some current successes of note:

  •  5 have experienced their longest stay in one apartment – 2 for an average of 33 months compared to 3 months previously.
  • 4 received their GED & 4 enrolled in post-secondary school – important for opening up higher paying  job opportunities.
  • 10 opened a bank account & 4 started paying down debt – building towards economic stability.
  • 3 got their driver’s license – an achievement in process and the increased access and flexibility to get to work.
  • 6 are receiving their highest wages in their lives – an average of $10.76/hour.

One resident stated in regards to her financial debt, “I used to just think who cares I’m going to die sometime anyway. Now I want to pay it off so I can save money and help my kids.” Since moving into Alliance Housing, this resident has paid off $13,000 of her $17,000 in debt!

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