Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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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