City council selects housing block grant recipients

The Edina City Council approved a divvying up more than $100,000 in federal block grants to providing housing opportunities and housing services at its Feb. 21 meeting.

The Community Development Block Grant Program is a federal entitlement program administered by the federal Housing and Urban Development office, which tasks Hennepin County with overseeing the distribution of grant funds to its communities, including Edina.
Edina’s preliminary 2017 budget allotment for planning purposes is $118,424, a 2.5 percent increase from the final 2016 budget of $115,571 due to an increase in poverty.

Housing and Urban Development mandates that no more than 15 percent of the city’s budget may be directed toward funding public service agencies. The remaining 85 percent must address community development needs.

The public service agencies receiving grant money are HOME – Household & Outside Maintenance for Elderly, Community Action Partnership for Suburban Hennepin and HOME Line.

HOME, which charges a pay for services on a sliding fee model for home maintenance and chore services for seniors 60 and older, requested $8,887.

Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin, which provides help in areas like home ownership, energy assistance, tax preparation and budget counseling, requested $4,700.

Last year it provided assistance to 23 Edina households.

Another organization that received grant funding was HOME Line, which provides tenant advocacy for Edina renters. Some 105 Edina households utilized the HOME hotline in 2016, saving them $13,000 and preventing six evictions. They requested $4,328, but due to the 15
percent limit, staff recommended $4,177.

The remaining 85 percent, or $100,600, must be directed toward community development.

City staff recommended giving all of the remaining to West Hennepin Affordable Housing Land Trust, which provides affordable homeownership opportunities using a community land trust model for income eligible homebuyers.

Essentially, after the cost of rehabilitation, the housing land trust owns the land and the homeowners own the house, which saves homeowners 30-50 percent.

With this and the 2016 allotment, the housing land trust will be able to buy two additional land trust homes.

During public testimony, Benjamin Fribley, the grant manager of Community Action Partnership for Suburban Hennepin, noted the “significant uptick” in Edina residents using the organization’s reverse mortgage counseling service.

“It sort of transitions from a highly predatory form of lending to, in some instances, a way for seniors to live in their homes,” Fribley said. “Almost nearly half of our numbers served in Edina were reverse mortgages. You might want to look at whether your cost of living is catching up to your [elderly] residents.”

Janet Lindo of the housing land trust explained that the families they assist in land trust ownership are workers who provide essential services to the Edina community.

“The last homebuyer was a teacher in the Edina school system,” Lindo said.

Since May 2002, the West Hennepin Affordable Housing Land Trust has helped 150 families find homeownership. According to Lindo, the interest in living in Edina, from both former residents or current Edina workforce members, continues to increase.

“We talk a lot about affordable housing, [and this] is a tool that helps us do single-family affordable housing in a really unique way,” Councilmember Kevin Staunton said. “One of the things we should be talking about as a council, whether it be affordable housing or redevelopment, is talking about how to be on that front end.”

The resolution was approved unanimously.