U of M looks to house staff affordably

A University committee will work with a nonprofit to help faculty live near campus.

by Barry Lytton

In an effort to help University of Minnesota staff and faculty members live closer to their jobs, a partnership between the University District Alliance Housing Committee and a nonprofit organization will ramp up this spring.

The team has been holding near-monthly orientation sessions to give prospective homeowners an affordable housing option in the University area.

The nonprofit, City of Lakes Community Land Trust, is an organization that invests in individual properties to make the houses that sit on them more affordable.

The UDA approached the organization in 2013 with the hope of increasing the number of faculty members who live in area neighborhoods. Jeff Washburne, the land trust’s executive director, said he thinks the group was contacted because of the area’s growing renter population.

“Many of the neighborhoods [are] trying to find a balance between ownership and rental,” he said.

The money the land trust invests in properties is permanent — meaning the home is affordable even after the owners move. Those who move into the home later must abide by the certain standards, which are based on income.

So far, the partnership has helped one person get an affordable home in Prospect Park, Washburne said.

Katie Fournier, the Livability Committee chair for Southeast Como Improvement Association and one of the neighborhood’s two primary representatives to the University District Alliance, said the group sought the land trust’s help to provide homeownership opportunities to University staff and faculty members.

But Washburne said his group helps anyone whose gross income is less than 80 percent of the Twin Cities’ median income — the main requirement to qualify for affordable housing.

Student housing creates a lot of affordable opportunities in the University area, said Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor Ed Goetz. But a wide selection of student housing options doesn’t mean owning a home in the area is any easier.

He said  more demand for affordable housing in Minneapolis than there is supply.

“We have a shortage of affordability and a lot of families — a lot of people — are paying too much of their income for housing,” he said.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association’s executive director Melissa Bean said the effort is a great way to strike a healthy balance between renters and homeowners in the neighborhood, but she said she doubts that many Marcy-Holmes properties will be land trust properties because homes in the area are expensive.

Washburne also said that Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park properties tend to be too expensive for the organization to assist in buying them. Cedar-Riverside has many apartments and few homes, he said, so there are few opportunities for the land trust to be useful there.

“From a dollar-and-cents perspective, there are probably going to be more opportunities in the Como neighborhood,” he said.

The next land trust meeting is set for Friday, Feb. 20 in the University’s Weaver-Densford Hall.