City officials discuss allocation of funds

Max Rust

Sitting before a jam-packed gymnasium Tuesday, Minneapolis officials presented five different plans that would restructure the way communities spend more than $170 million in Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds.
Marcy -Holmes, a neighborhood highly populated with University students, would be one of the first communities affected by restructuring.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Program is a decade-old effort to give local development power to Minneapolis neighborhoods funded by downtown property taxes.
The program is now entering its second 10-year phase in which a projected $170.4 million will be allocated to neighborhoods according to their population and demographics.
But just how to allocate and spend the funds was the question of the evening.
“Tonight, we are in an important point in this NRP program,” said Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. “It’s time to think about how to tweak the program, adjust the program — some might say change the program.”
NRP’s first phase mandated that 52 percent of a neighborhood’s funds be spent on housing initiatives. Overall, the neighborhoods did not meet that regulation, spending 46 percent of the funding on housing.
Several city officials, including 2nd Ward council member Joan Campbell, think the program should be modified to achieve the housing goals called for when state legislators approved the program in 1990.
“We have to have more of the money used for housing. That’s part of the state law, and in the first 10 years, that didn’t occur,” Campbell said. “We have to rectify that short fall over the next 10 years as we spend the next $170 million.”
Meeting that short fall could affect neighborhoods’ autonomy in spending funds. Some of the proposals increase the city’s abilities to regulate neighborhoods’ NRP expenditures.
“Most cities don’t enjoy the kind of autonomy that we do,” said Joe Fusco, the Marcy-Holmes’ NRP coordinator. “NRP has really enabled the neighborhoods to do some pretty independent thinking in development.”
Of the five plans, Campbell prefers Plan D, which allows neighborhoods to keep most of their autonomy in spending funds, but would make 25 to 40 percent of the funds “reserved for the citywide priorities of affordable housing and commercial corridors,” according to plan documents.
The plan also calls for neighborhoods to collaboratively spend some of their funds.
Plan A essentially keeps the program as it is, while Plan C provides undefined incentives for neighborhoods to address citywide priorities.
Plan B allows neighborhoods to spend their funds as they choose, but would hold back funds until the neighborhood meets its housing requirement. Plan E reserves 40 to 60 percent of second-phase funds for affordable housing.
The NRP policy board will pick two plan options and hold another public hearing in May before finally deciding.

Max Rust covers community neighborhoods and agriculture and welcomes comments at [email protected]