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Richfield is seeking to protect affordable housing through two proposals

Post Date:07/30/2018 10:57 AM

Affordable housing is important to the economic vitality of Richfield. Affordable homes can attract and retain employees to the city, providing a competitive advantage for employers.

Access to affordable housing also bolsters the wellbeing of families living in the city. Obviously, affordable housing fulfills the basic human need for shelter, but studies also show that children in stable housing do better in school and are less likely to experience a disruption in their education due to unwanted moves.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as a residence that a household can obtain for 30 percent or less of its income.

“As a city council, we know that quality, stable, affordable housing for both renters and homeowners is the foundation of a strong community,” said Councilmember Maria Regan Gonzalez. “A lot of barriers exist that prevent residents from accessing affordable housing options. We are working to eliminate as many of these barriers as possible in Richfield.”

City policymakers and staff have spent the past year considering multiple tools and strategies to strengthen the city’s affordable apartment communities and provide protections to renters most vulnerable to rising housing costs and the declining availability of affordable housing options.

The city recently proposed moving forward with two of these tools that should help tenants at risk of being displaced and increase affordable housing choices: a tenant protection ordinance and an inclusionary housing policy.

The proposed tenant protection ordinance would apply to affordable rental apartment buildings when they are sold. The new owner would be required to provide notice to all tenants of any proposed changes in rents or screening policies, as well as offer a 90-day period before those changes take effect.

The proposed ordinance would apply only to apartment buildings with three or more units. Also, the proposed ordinance would apply only to apartment buildings where at least 20 percent of the units are affordable at 60 percent of the area median income.

“The tenant protection ordinance is geared towards our existing residents who rent. As buildings change ownership, the ordinance offers a reasonable period of time for tenants to adjust to increases in rent and changes in screening policy or to find a new place to live if the changes force them to move,” said Housing Manager Julie Urban. “The new apartment owner can bypass the 90-day period of time if they provide compensation to the tenant instead.”

The proposed inclusionary housing policy would apply to new housing developments seeking financial assistance from the city. The policy would require developers to provide at least 20 percent of their units as affordable or make a financial contribution to the city’s housing and redevelopment fund.

“Both the tenant protection ordinance and inclusionary housing policy are aimed at meeting the goals the council set for strengthening the city’s apartment communities,” explained Urban.

In a recent goal-setting session, the city council asserted that they wanted to strengthen Richfield’s apartment communities by:

  1. Preserving and improving the quality of existing affordable housing while discouraging displacement of residents.
  2. Diversifying the housing stock through targeted redevelopment to provide a variety of rental housing opportunities at a range of income levels.
  3. Strengthening protections for renters in order to promote housing stability.
  4. Providing support to renters and apartment owners and managers to facilitate successful apartment communities.

“The city has been a leader in protecting, preserving and promoting affordable housing options. We want to make sure that if you want to live in Richfield, you have options,” said Regan Gonzales. “In the future, the council will be looking to provide additional resources to both renters and homeowners living in affordable housing.”  

The city council will vote on the two proposals on September 25. Both proposals are available on the city’s website for review by residents: https://goo.gl/o3e3ar.

Stakeholder feedback is important to the city council and city staff as they consider any policy change. Comments on the two policy changes will be accepted through August 31 and can be sent to Housing Manager Julie Urban by calling 612-861-9777 or emailing jurban@richfieldmn.gov

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