Hennepin County pledges almost $74 million to affordable housing relief and recovery efforts

Paula Carlsen

HENNEPIN COUNTY, MN - On Tuesday, August 17, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approved spending $73.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to improve affordable housing, reduce homelessness, and assist renters facing eviction.

These investments will build on Hennepin County's pandemic response, allowing communities to emerge stronger than they were before. County governments have till 2026 to use these ARP funds.

The pandemic has provided a rare opportunity to not only address the ongoing disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income and communities of color but also to position the county and communities to address long-standing disparities in housing and homelessness.

$46 million for housing recovery

The funds will help strengthen communities by investing in housing and neighborhoods, especially those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as low-income and minority groups.

With these funds, the County will:

  • Increase affordable multifamily housing output by providing financing to help key affordable housing development projects open faster.
  • Invest in Locally Affordable Housing: Preserve naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) and solve deferred repair and maintenance (DRM).
  • Obtain property: The pandemic is affecting single adults who are homeless or experiencing housing instability.
  • Create new homeownership initiatives to help those most hit by the pandemic build wealth.

These strategies will help construct or preserve 2,000 affordable housing units and enable over 100 families to buy homes.

$25.5 million for homelessness response

The county board also approved spending up to $25.5 million in federal ARP funding to help people prevent homelessness and keep shelters in compliance with CDC public health guidelines.

With these funds, the County will:

  • Homeward Bound, a new low-barrier, housing-focused emergency shelter founded last winter, and Avivo Villages are both in need of funding.
  • Prolong shelter hours: Maintain 24/7 shelter operations to help visitors' health and housing needs.
  • Reduce shelter barriers: No self-pay contributions
  • Enhance shelter alternatives: During a housing crisis, let people use safe community services instead of emergency shelters.
  • Shelter safety: Work with emergency homeless shelters, board and lodge settings to enhance physical conditions, reduce COVID-19 effects, and enable COVID-19 compliance.
  • Prevent homelessness: Develop a new approach for engaging with persons in encampments with partners to reverse increases in unsheltered homelessness since the pandemic began.

The purpose of this work is to enhance homelessness outreach capacity by 750 individuals per year, provide safe housing for 5,000 people per year, and make the physical facilities safer and more COVID-19 compliant.

$2.2 million to support people at risk of eviction

For people facing eviction, up to $2.2 million in federal ARP money will help navigate housing court and seek legal and financial help.

Certain renters in Hennepin County may be evicted when state and federal eviction protections are phased out. Renters who qualify for emergency rent assistance through RentHelpMN or The Zero Balance Project will be shielded from eviction until June 2022.

To prepare for the termination of eviction protections, Hennepin County continues to help renters apply for emergency rental assistance.

More than $78 million in COVID-19 emergency rent assistance has already been awarded to Hennepin County renters.

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