Six Summit-University dwellings will be acquired by the Rondo Community Land Trust as part of an effort to preserve affordable housing in Saint Paul. The City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), recently earmarked $1.37 million in federal Community Development Block Grants for the project.

The land trust will acquire 165 Avon St. and 796, 800, 822, 837 and 841 Selby Ave. from Land Bank Twin Cities, and set up a revolving loan fund. The long-term intent is to keep the six properties providing housing at an affordable level. Financing on the dwellings closed on March 15.

Selby Commons
The Rondo Community Land Trust is acquiring six Selby Commons buildings, including these two at 796 and 800 Selby. Google photo

The houses and duplexes were part of the Twin Cities Housing Development Corporation (TCHDC) Selby Wilkins development, a merger of Selby Commons and Wilkins Townhomes. The nonprofit corporation announced last year that it planned to sell six of the 12 buildings that had been part of Selby Commons.

Some units to be sold immediately

One of the duplex units at 837 Selby and a home at 822 Selby are vacant. They will be offered for sale immediately to buyers at or below 80 percent of the Twin Cities area median income (AMI), or $89,400 for a family of four. The remaining units will remain rentals until the current tenants choose to move out. Then they will also be sold at 80 percent AMI. The land trust holds the lease on the land, while families own the homes.

Land trust executive director Mikeya Griffin said the average tenure in one of their houses is 7-10 years. However, some have stayed with the program since its inception in 1993. She described a homebuyer who was able to earn a doctorate degree, start a business that is now in a land trust commercial unit, and buy a home on her own. “That’s the power of what we do,” she said.

Rondo was the first residential community land trust in Minnesota. It has 94 dwellings and a goal of adding 500-700 more in the next five to six years. It also is looking to expand its current 9,300 square feet of commercial space.

Land trust lauded for keeping housing affordable

City Council members expressed their support for the land trust’s work, and for keeping properties affordable for new owners and existing renters. Ward 1 council member Russel Balenger, whose ward includes Selby Wilkins, noted that a nearby Dayton Avenue house recently sold in just a few days for $479,000. 

Other council members said they are interested in seeing more done to expand the land trust’s work or to see other land trusts formed. That is especially needed as the city grapples with an affordable housing shortage.

Late last year, TCHDC refinanced Selby Wilkins. Sources included low-income housing tax credits from the city and Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

Wilkins Townhomes and Selby Commons

Wilkins Townhomes is a three-building,  23-unit, affordable townhome community with 100 percent of the housing units holding Section 8 vouchers. The buildings are all on Marshall, Ashland and Holly avenues east of Dale Street. They were built in the early 1980s, but have seen no substantial improvements since then. TCHDC purchased the properties in 2020 with the intent of combining them with Selby Commons and making needed improvements.

TCHDC has owned and operated Selby Commons since the early 1990s. The scattered-site development had 12 buildings along a five-block stretch of Selby. It has 38 two-, three- and four-bedroom dwellings. Most buildings are single-family homes, duplexes and triplexes. The largest and most prominent building is at the northeast corner of Selby and Milton Street.

Changes to Selby-Milton building

The Selby-Milton building was granted a conditional use permit by the Planning Commission last year. The permit allows the conversion of ground-floor commercial space into eight, two-bedroom apartments. The apartments were to be affordable to households making 60 percent AMI, or $70,400 for a household of four. That is in addition to the 10 apartments already there.

The commission also recommended that the building and its parking lot at 912 Selby Ave. be rezoned from commercial to residential, which the City Council approved.

— Jane McClure


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