By Shannon Brault
Officials with the city of St. Paul and Ramsey County plan to pool more than $74 million of federal American Rescue Plan funding for what they are calling “deeply affordable housing.”
Mayor Melvin Carter said at a press conference Monday that the city will invest $37.5 million into a “30 percent Area Median Income” housing fund and Ramsey County has committed to invest an additional $37 million. It represents one of the largest uses of federal relief dollars for affordable housing in the nation.
The funds will be used to expand housing in the east metro, including the construction of more than 1,000 permanent housing units with a 30 percent area median income.
“This unprecedented investment in our most vulnerable residents reflects the magnitude of the unprecedented housing crisis we are facing,” Carter said.
Toni Carter, Ramsey County commissioner, said the partnership will “ensure that every one of these combined $74 million in ARPA funds is strategically invested to help provide stable, permanent housing in St. Paul and across Ramsey County.”
PANDEMIC WORSENS HOUSING CRISIS
Some affordable housing in St. Paul is still too expensive for many families as it is built for those earning 60 percent of the area median income based on a 15-county area. That comes out to a family of four making $63,000 annually, whereas 30 percent AMI would be about $32,000 per year.
The median household income in St. Paul is about $58,000, while the median household income for the 15-county statistical area is $104,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Metropolitan Council.
While St. Paul has experienced a housing crisis since before the pandemic, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, according to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who also attended the announcement.
“What the pandemic exposed is that we need to do more to make sure that people can access affordable quality housing,” Klobuchar said. “As millions lost work, families were forced to choose between paying the rent and buying groceries, medicine, or other basic needs. And those who had already struggled to make ends meet were pushed to the brink.”
‘HUGE DIFFERENCE’ PREDICTED
According to the city, 39 percent of St. Paul renters are extremely low income, which means 22,330 households are at or below the 30 percent area median income. Currently, there are approximately 11,560 rental units available at the 30 percent AMI, meaning there is a nearly 11,000-unit gap.
“I know it’s going to make a huge difference,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who also was in attendance at the Monday announcement. “I know there’s still more work to be done, but today we should celebrate the difference we’re going to be able to make working together for the lives of low-income individuals.”
In Ramsey County, about 37,000 families are at or below 30 percent of the area median income.
“All residents of Ramsey County should have a safe and stable place to call home,” said Ramsey County Housing and Redevelopment Authority Chair Trista MatasCastillo.
Further details are anticipated to be available early next year.
St. Paul, Ramsey County and partners will work together to determine how the resources will be allocated in the development of these affordable units.
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