Housing Justice Center - projects
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Preserving, Acquiring and Creating
In 2005, HJC began developing strategies to address the unique challenges of preserving this housing, including tracking and monitoring privately owned properties, developing programs to finance rehabilitation and preservation purchases, increasing the nonprofit capacity, and urging the adoption of government policies to preserve this often overlooked supply of low cost housing. We will continue to represent the current residents of threatened properties, using leverage provided by existing laws and negotiation with owners and developers.

During 2008 to 2010, HJC began making the argument that policymakers and nonprofit housing owners should be paying more attention to the idea of nonprofits purchasing unsubsidized but affordable multifamily properties.  This could have two benefits.  First, evidence suggests that over time, nonprofit owners can keep rents lower than for-profit speculative owners, meaning these properties can become relatively more affordable over time.  Second, census data demonstrates that approximately half the units in these affordable unsubsidized buildings are occupied by households who are relatively higher income and could afford to pay more in rent than they are paying.  This situation creates a mismatch—lower income households are forced to pay more than they can afford for their housing because the units they could afford are occupied by higher income households.  The solution is not to evict higher income households who pay more, but if when those units turn over, a nonprofit owner dedicated them to lower income households, this could be way of “creating” new affordable units for those most in need without having to build them.
 
Which unsubsidized buildings should be a priority for acquisition of this kind?  Buildings that have managed to remain affordable but are located in high opportunity areas would seem to fit the bill.  For example, the Central Corridor light rail line is expected to eventually create a strong development market along the St. Paul neighborhoods through which it will run.  Right now those neighborhoods are generally quite affordable but they may not remain that way once the light rail line is well established. 

Nonprofit acquisition of those properties now might make considerable long term sense.  HJC has discussed this idea with the newly-established Twin Cities Community Land Bank, which is now actively pursuing this acquisition idea along Central Corridor.