The Next Big Endeavor

1525_Elevation 3- 030416Alliance Housing prides itself on being a good landlord to people with barriers to stable housing and very low incomes. We manage and maintain our properties to be the “best on the block.” In addition, we’ve always been willing to tackle the more difficult redevelopment or construction projects to serve a target population–even at the risk of the process taking longer and generating less resources for ourselves. We do not need to do real estate development to survive; we do it to serve.

With recent transitions in leadership, Alliance decided to tap into the intelligence and insights of a broader group of people to help determine our next big endeavor. Beginning in November 2015, Alliance invited a group of people who have experience with real estate development, the needs and desires of homeless people and people with very low incomes, and tackling tough issues in new and different ways.

The group met twice to discuss needs and projects that align with Alliance Housing’s strengths and how to mitigate challenges and strategies to expand Alliance’s reach. Many thanks to board member Miranda Walker for chairing the group and Jim Fournier, Tamuno Imbu, David Jeffries, Ron Price, Sue Roedl, Stacy Becker, Chuck Riesenberg, Matthew Ayers and Troy Kester for sharing their time and insights.

The group produced five endeavor profiles that included real estate development projects to serve distinct community needs. Each profile also included one or more policy issues that would need attention to accomplish the endeavor. Surprisingly, many of the suggestions mimicked work that Alliance is already engaged in. It was an affirmation of our niche, serving very low-income families and individuals, and our declaration that more housing is needed to end the challenges that lead to homelessness and to keep families stably housed.

Here is a list of the five profiles with highlights from our existing tenants that indicate our strength managing the property and/or the need:

Homeless adults, aged 55+

Nearly 60% of Alliance’s rooms for rent are leased by men and women 55 years and older. They’ve brought stability to the properties, but many have physical and health challenges that make climbing stairs to use a shared kitchen or getting to a second or third floor unit difficult. This group is also a growing part of the shelter population–increasing from 12% of overall homeless adults in 2009 to nearly 24% in 2015.

Thomas is a 75-year-old tenant of Alliance’s property on Pillsbury. He climbs to the third floor every day and is that floor’s ambassador. Everyone knows him and appreciates his generosity. He spent three years living in his car before moving into his Pillsbury home. He has a fixed income from Social Security and a very old criminal record that were barriers to affording and finding other units. He’s ready for a little more privacy, and his health is making his climb to the third floor more difficult. An affordable studio, on a bus line in a building with an elevator, would be perfect.

Single adult men with kids who have barriers to housing and may or may not have formal custody

Andrew, a single dad and an art activist, was a tenant in one of Alliance’s rooms until March when he moved on to a bigger place. Prior to Alliance, he owned a home in Powderhorn for years before his house was foreclosed, leaving him with no rental history and therefore no access to options for housing. This had been the house he raised his kids in, who are now in high school. Despite being grateful for the room, it wasn’t large enough to have them stay overnight. After a year of the kids bouncing around with friends, he recently moved on to a larger place so he can provide a roof over their head. While the rent is more than he can afford, this is a sacrifice he is making to try and provide stability for his family once again. More affordable options for fathers with partial custody would have been the answer for Andrew.

Single adults (men and women) with extremely low incomes

Chaz was 26 years old when he moved in at Alliance’s rooming house on Pillsbury in 2014. He had been bouncing around from temp job to temp job, trying to keep his head above water, managing to maintain a positive attitude through it all. Given his history with homelessness, he was classified as long-term homeless and appeared to welcome the opportunity for stable housing with some services. During his tenancy at Pillsbury he always paid his rent on time and kept stable employment. In 2015, he landed a permanent position at McDonalds and was given the opportunity to be sent to their education program for managers. He has since moved on to a more private room at another Alliance property and no longer needs the services of our staff tenant service coordinator. If it wasn’t for the second chance Alliance offered, he may not be on the path to stability he is now on.

Homeless families with extremely low incomes

Brittany was 22 years old when she and her two-year-old daughter moved into Alliance’s Northside Supportive Housing for Families program and apartment. She was excited about the program because she really wanted to provide stability for her daughter since she had been homeless on and off since she was a teenager. Her cooking job at a casual restaurant paid only $8.75 an hour. It was difficult to get a lot of shifts because of her hour-long bus commute to work and limited childcare options. Despite Brittany’s low wage and difficulty getting enough hours, she has paid her rent on time for 16 consecutive months. She is proud to be experiencing her longest stay in one apartment and providing her daughter her own bedroom in a place they call home. Alliance’s program and property management offer Brittany the support and flexibility she needs to move on with her life.

Adults and families with low wages and barriers to housing who may or may not have been homeless and aren’t interested in a supportive housing program

Jennifer is a 31-year-old mother of four. She moved into one of our South Minneapolis 3-bedroom units in 2012. With her only income being public assistance she was determined to get on her feet, quickly realizing that public assistance would not pay the rent and bills. Shortly after being housed, she got a job as a personal care attendant. However, the job did not provide her with consistent hours or pay, and she continued to struggle with the rent, $685/month plus gas and electric, even though that’s at least 1/3 below market rates. Alliance worked with Jennifer, accepting partial rent payments throughout the month. She works hard to maintain her responsibilities to her children, her neighbors and Alliance Housing, despite the challenges of being a single parent. Despite the offer to be placed on a Section 8 waitlist, Jennifer is not interested. Although making all her bills on time isn’t always easy, she does not want any more subsidies. She’s determined to make it work on her own. Alliance is the kind of landlord that will support her to make it on her own.

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