The focus of the May Minnesota Housing board meeting was the $35.5 million in bonding committed during the 2012 Legislative Session. Assistant Commissioner Tonja Orr outlined how the bonding dollars will be allocated and how the Agency will prioritize funding for the upcoming year. Also of note, Minnesota Housing board awarded over $1 million to cover operating shortfalls for supportive housing developments. Finally, Minnesota Housing has begun its strategic planning process. The board was briefed on the timeline for completing the 2013-2015 Strategic Plan and the 2013 Affordable Housing Plan (AHP).
Minnesota Housing board members met for a special meeting on May 14 to discuss the Agency's strategic plan. The strategic plan, with its 3-5 year time frame, lays out the mission for the agency as well as its major priorities. The draft plan will be available for the June 21 Agency board meeting and finalized at the July meeting.
The Agency will begin drafting the 2013 Affordable Housing Plan (AHP). The AHP specifies resource allocations and identifies production targets. A draft of the 2013 AHP will be available in August, with final adoption in September in time for the October 1 start of the Agency's program year.
The board received a six month report on goals for the current planning year. The Agency was on track to achieve most of the goals adopted last October reported John Patterson, the Agency's planning director. Of note, he said the Agency is scheduled to earn $17.1 million in the year, representing a solid financial turnaround for the Agency.
$35.5 Million in Bonding Committed During the 2012 Legislative Session
Assistant Commissioner Tonja Orr presented a final report on the 2012 Legislative Session. Orr reported that the legislators were very receptive to the common request and messages used by housing advocates and the Agency. This receptivity led to a commitment of $35.5 million in bonding, the largest bonding amount ever received by the Agency.
$5.5 million of the bonding amount will help preserve the state's public housing. The remaining $30 million are for infrastructure bonds. These are bonds for which the legislature does not pledge the full faith and credit of the State, but does pledge to make the debt service payments.
The infrastructure bonds are seen not as a new program, but represent a supplemental funding source for existing programs (i.e., the Housing Trust Fund and the Challenge Program). Therefore, bond resources can be committed through the regular RFP process for these programs, with commitments made this October.
Orr said that to demonstrate the value of the housing bonds as a job generator the Agency was looking for projects that were "ready to go," with construction starting this year. The Agency also would be looking for projects leveraging other resources such as the preservation projects that could tap into 4% tax credits and tax exempt bonding.
$1 Million Awarded to Cover Operating Shortfalls for Supportive Housing Developments
The board also awarded a little over $1 million to cover operating shortfalls and unique costs, such as supporting front desk staffing, of 16 supportive housing developments. The funds awarded represent a unique partnership between the Agency and the Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS has committed to provide up to $1.5 million annually in operating subsidies for supportive housing owners agreeing to provide housing units for adults with serious mental illness. $875,000 of the current award was from DHS resources with the remaining $194,000 from Minnesota Housing's Housing Trust Fund account. In approving the award, Director Klinzing relayed her visit to Duluth's San Marcos development and where she witnessed the importance of providing front desk staffing.
Staffing Changes at Minnesota Housing
While she has nearly completed the hiring process to fill the Community Development director position recently held by Katy Linblad, Commissioner Tingerthal said that the agency is losing another valued staff person, Jeanette Blankenship. Blankenship represented the Agency at the legislature and was the primary link between the Agency and housing advocates working at the capitol. She is moving to join her husband who recently obtained a job in the Seattle area.