City housing blunder must be solved

The $200 million reconstruction of public housing on the north side of Minneapolis, known as the Hollman development, is the result of a lawsuit filed by area residents in 1992. Residents sued housing authorities for better housing conditions, and a settlement was reached in 1995 in the form of the Hollman Consent Decree. The existing substandard housing was immediately torn down. The reconstruction project was supposed to bring new jobs and 900 new and improved homes for residents. So far, the project has failed in both respects, and the city needs to utilize its resources to solve this problem.

The City of Minneapolis established a Community Oversight Committee to insure that the project was moving along. The committee has been drastically ineffective. During the tightest housing crunch in decades, the 770 housing units were demolished, and residents had nowhere to go. Six years later, nothing has changed. This is a blatant outrage. Of course, the simple fact that the housing is not being built is only one of the problems.

An estimated $157 million for the project is coming directly from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Because the money is coming from a federal source, the city must follow HUD’s Section 3 eligibility requirements for resident employment opportunities, and this has become a stumbling block for the employment of residents. The criteria for qualified residents include living in a Minneapolis Public Housing Association site where work is being performed, or participate in HUD Youth Build Program, or living in Minneapolis and not having a family income exceeding 80 percent of the median income for the area.

The MPHA has taken steps to specify that residents relocated due to the Hollman Consent Decree have Section 3 priority for work. However, the priority status hasn’t accomplished a thing; no former residents have applied for the jobs. The city took no initiative in contacting former residents about the housing project. The city has been using Public Works employees for the little work that has been done. It is unclear if the residents even know of the opportunities available to them.

The city has also managed to demonstrate its complete disregard for its constituents by tearing down the housing units during a housing crisis, with no replacements available. As for the 900 homes supposed to be built, in six years there has been minimal progress with no explanation. Last March, the Metropolitan Council committed to developing a mere 50 replacement units for these displaced residents throughout surrounding suburbs. These replacement units serve as the council’s first public housing venture; however, it’s six years after the fact.

So the city is facing a situation where it is not moving fast enough to build affordable housing, and even if it were, it seems unlikely they would be using local residents who need the work. Maybe city officials feel those who contribute more to the tax base are more worthy of their time and effort. The current officials in the city have done virtually nothing to alleviate the housing crisis in recent years, and this is definitely true in regard to the Hollman development.