Housing (short & long term)

Since spring 2000, there has been talk about affordable housing and how the County ought to do something about it, (see RRR Fall 2000). At the Board meeting of 12/19/00, the Commissioners got into the question of affordable housing in a BIG way.

The original proposal by Commissioner Haigh was for $2 million start up dollars to be funded through property taxes and/or fund balance, reported Mary Lynn Smith, Star Tribune (12/20/00). According to the article, Commissioners dismissed the original proposal by saying they didnít want to cut existing county programs or increase property taxes to pay for it.

Rettman, Ortega and Bennett, historically housing advocates for all income ranges, decided they could come up with a plan that used zero property tax dollars. Instead a creative proposal was born called an housing endowment fund.

Many discussions were held. Under the two blended proposals, a $10 million dollar fund was established as a last resort for developers who have exhausted all other financing options to build affordable and accessible housing. Under the Countyís plan, developers could obtain up to $20,000 for each housing unit thatís affordable to a family of four with an income of $32,850 and up to $50,000 for each unit that would be affordable for a family of four with a $19,700 or less income.

The blended housing endowment fund has two parts: 1) $2 million is to be borrowed from the Countyís yr. 2000 reserve and will be repaid with interest. These initial dollars will be combined with a $1 million grant from the McKnight Foundation to start the housing endowment fund. 2) Another $3 million would be available from the reserve fund during the next two years, provided County officials come up with a financing plan which uses money from the sale of excess county land and tax forfeiture properties to replenish the reserve fund.

Ms. Smith stated, that Janice, who helped revise the latest plan, said she hopes money from land sales could eventually establish a $10 million dollar housing endowment fund. But she and other commissioners are adamant that they wonít increase property taxes to pay for the program.

At the 12/19/00, Board meeting, ten Ramsey County properties were identified as potentially available for sale. Also available, was estimated sales proceeds. Of the ten, the 80 acres of the Workhouse Land drew the most discussion by the Commissioners. Janice sees this property as having the most potential to create an endowment because it is prime real estate that would probably be developed as upscale homes or condominiums. "This property will generate real estate taxes that will continue a funding stream of dollars. Thatís what is needed for this to work."

Commissioner McDonough was skeptical on the sale of this particular 80 acres. Once sold, it is non-retrievable. McDonough believed that before such a sale of land there would be a need for additional study. County Manager Paul Kirkwold stated that before any sale of land the County should have a Policy discussion on how to go about it. Just like when you sell a house you can make improvements so that you get a much greater sale price than if you sell as is.


Rettman Report (January/February 2001)
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Author: Commissioner Rettman's Office / Information Services