The financing for two affordable housing projects at Highland Bridge is now in place. The Saint Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, approved the funds on October 26 for the Nellie Francis Court and Emma Norton Services Restoring Waters buildings.
Both apartment buildings are being developed by Project for Pride in Living (PPL). They were designed by UrbanWorks Architecture.
With their construction and the construction of CommonBond Communities’ 60-unit Lumin building for low-income seniors, Highland Bridge will be a quarter of the way to its goal for affordable housing, according to Sarah Zorn, city manager of the Highland Bridge project.
Ryan Companies’ development agreement with the city requires that at least 760 units, or 20 percent of the housing, at Highland Bridge be affordable to households making 60 percent or less of the Twin Cities’ area median income (AMI). Ryan Companies plans to build as many as 3,800 housing units on the 122-acre site.
Restoring Waters will be a five-story building for formerly homeless women and their dependent children. It will have 56 efficiency apartments and four one-bedroom units.
The apartments are reserved for households earning no more than 30 percent of AMI. Thirty of the units will be reserved for people who were previously homeless, and nine will be reserved for people with disabilities.
The $23 million Restoring Waters will also house the offices of Emma Norton Services, replacing a facility on Robert Street that was recently purchased by Regions Hospital. It will have 28 underground parking spaces.
Restoring Waters’ construction costs are being covered through a variety of sources, including low-income housing tax credits, private fundraising, and funds from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Greater Minnesota Housing and the Ramsey County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
Tax increment financing (TIF) will provide another $3.5 million or so. Multifamily revenue bonds may be requested for up to $11.5 million of the cost.
Nellie Francis Court is being built as workforce housing for PPL. The five-story, 75-unit building will have 26 efficiency, 30 one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom apartments reserved for households making no more than 60 percent of AMI. Its 40 underground parking spaces will be shared with Emma Norton.
The $24 million-plus cost of Nellie Francis Court will be paid through low-income housing tax credits, a grant from the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and just over $9 million in TIF. Up to $11.2 million of multifamily revenue bonds may also be requested.
The TIF for Restoring Waters and Nellie Francis Court accounts for about 90 percent of the funds generated by the TIF district that is centered around Presbyterian Homes’ nearby Marvella development.
— Jane McClure
City offering $20 million to help build more affordable housing
Saint Paul’s efforts to provide housing for people with very low incomes continues this fall with the second round of the 30 Percent Area Median Income (AMI) Deeply Affordable Housing Program.
The city is using $37.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds and Local Fiscal Recovery funds to pay for new and rehabilitated housing. About $17 million was allocated in the first round this spring. The remaining $20 million will be allocated to developers who apply by November 30. The intent of the program is to provide housing that is affordable to households earning about $35,190 per year for a family of four.
The 30 Percent AMI program has helped the city increase the number of deeply affordable housing units by 10 in 2021, 110 in 2022 and an estimated 100 in 2023. According to program manager Erika Byrd creating a single deeply affordable housing unit has an average cost of about $160,000.
The program’s focus in the second round is to help homeless people move into permanent supportive housing. How much each project receives will depend on the number of applicants. Developers must close on their financing by the end of 2024 and keep the housing affordable for at least 30 years. Projects that promise 40 to 50 years of affordability will be given priority.
The proposed Nellie Francis Court and Emma Norton Services buildings at Highland Bridge on the northwest corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Mount Curve Boulevard.
City Council members questioned the tight deadline for applications in the second round. Noting the more relaxed application period in the first round, Ward 7 council member Jane Prince asked if the city is giving developers enough time. Saint Paul housing director Tara Beard explained that city officials are working under a tight deadline to spend the available funds.
Among the projects receiving funds in the first round was developer JB Vang’s Twelve-Twenty-Two Project. The former Saint Paul Casket Company building at 1222 University Ave. will have 55 apartments, 13 of which will be affordable to households making 30 percent AMI.
Other first-round projects include PAK Properties’ Marshall Avenue Flats at 1619 Dayton Ave. and RS Eden’s Ashland Apartments at 532 Ashland Ave. Ten of the 98 Marshall Avenue Flats will be affordable to households making 30 percent AMI. All 17 of RS Eden’s Ashland Apartments will be affordable to those making 30 percent AMI.
— Jane McClure