Rooming Houses Regain Legitimacy Through City and County Policy

Alliance Housing’s policy advocacy work had some successes this past year.  In some ways, the pandemic has provided more access to elected officials by video chat and more focus on tenant protections.  Minneapolis Councilmember Cam Gordon saw the value of single room occupancy (SRO or to us sleeping rooms) from a cost perspective and as part of the housing puzzle almost immediately upon learning about them from Alliance Housing.  He was already a fan of shared housing having passed the intentional community legislation to address some challenges of student housing in the University neighborhoods.  Councilmembers Cam Gordon, Jeremy Schroeder and Lisa Goodman convened a study group of industry professionals and City staff and crafted a new ordinance that once again allows new SRO rental licenses in Minneapolis within certain parameters and management.  They had been banned for 15+ years after a lot of trouble with poorly managed properties.

Tandem to the City of Minneapolis efforts, Hennepin County staff also took on advocacy of SRO housing policy as a value added to the area’s housing supply.  Julia Welle Ayers, a Housing Development and Finance Director in Hennepin County’s Housing and Economic Development department, convened a group of nonprofit developers, City and County staff and private sector developers and architects over a 9 month period to craft a policy framework.  The committee was the brain child of former Commissioner Opat.  The SRO policy framework was adopted by the County board in October and offers guidance to cities in the County who wish to open up planning processes for the addition of SRO housing. In addition, Hennepin County purchased four buildings in 2020 to ultimately convert to SRO housing. This included the Stevens Square Residence, which Alliance Housing already operates as SRO housing under a lease from Hennepin.

Alliance believes the new ordinance will increase the number of well managed and affordable sleeping rooms in Minneapolis and Hennepin County above and beyond the flexibility it offers its own efforts.  Both Hennepin and Minneapolis allocated ARP Act funds to develop additional SRO housing.