The St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is discussing implementation strategies for the city’s new $71 million Housing Trust Fund.

In December 2018, the St. Paul City Council approved a one-time $10 million and annual $2 million investment into a Housing Trust Fund, for total housing investments of over $71 million. The Housing Trust Fund was developed by St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter to produce, preserve, and protect housing affordability for the city’s residents. The contributions of flexible city dollars along with federal and state financing tools is intended to address the current crisis of housing affordability in St. Paul.

Current issues facing the St. Paul housing market include increasing costs of labor and materials limiting new construction, housing costs rising at a quicker pace than average incomes, and significant racial disparities in homeownership.

“Safe, secure, and affordable housing is critical to ensure all our residents can achieve stable and prosperous lives,” said Carter. “I applaud the collaborative leadership of our HRA, and city departments for committing to discover innovative approaches to invest in St. Paul’s future.”

The Housing Trust Fund strategy identifies five key objectives to address housing issues: meeting the needs of those with the lowest incomes by increasing supply, investing in preserving affordability of existing homes, exploring innovative approaches to meeting housing needs, building wealth for residents and communities and, promoting fair access housing for all. The strategy builds upon the 2017 findings of the St. Paul Fair Housing Working Group, as refined by community engagement during the City’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan process and Carter’s “Voices of Our Community and Imagine Our City” listening sessions.

“Establishing the Housing Trust Fund will allow us to increase our creation and preservation of affordable housing access in St. Paul,” said HRA Chair Chris Tolbert. “This will ensure that more families have access to stable housing, which will allow those families an opportunity to thrive in our community.”

Multiple city departments are collaborating to address housing needs in St. Paul. The team of housing professionals within the Department of Planning and Economic Development is focused on implementing investments with the Housing Trust Fund. PED’s housing staff collaborates with colleagues in the new Office of Financial Empowerment, the Department of Safety and Inspections and Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity to ensure that all St. Paul residents have access to safe, affordable housing and economic opportunity.

In February, the HRA endorsed investments from the Housing Trust Fund into the new 4(d) Affordable Housing Incentive Program which preserves existing affordable housing by providing landlords with a small property tax credit. 104 applications for 721 units were received within the first two weeks of the program launch, including nearly 200 units serving households at or below 50 percent of area median income.

“Our greatest successes will be ahead of us,” said St. Paul Housing Director Kayla Schuchman. “We have mapped out a course that responds to the needs of the people in our community. Through engagement, partnership, and creativity, we will deliver housing resources that will both help people in the current crisis and build upon and invest in the resources of our residents and communities for the future.”

In the next year, the Housing Trust Fund will explore different housing affordability models including a rent supplement pilot in partnership with St. Paul Public Schools, and investments in other models of sustained affordability and wealth building such as the Rondo Community Land Trust and targeted down-payment assistance programs.

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