NRP Phase II plan puts $20 million to Affordable housing, business corridors

Sarah Tellijohn, Southwest Journal

June 12, 2000

It's been more than a year since neighborhood activists crowded into the Northeast Armory gym to hear how and if Phase II of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program would be funded. A familiar scene is expected June 13 when the city unveils to residents its final plan for the second phase of the program, which runs from 2001 to 2009.

The plan, approved May 22 by the multi-jurisdictional NRP Policy Board, earmarks $20 million for affordable housing and commercial corridors out of the $150.6 million available to neighborhoods in Phase II. For four consecutive years, $4 million a year would be set aside for affordable housing projects and $1 million a year would go toward revitalizing commercial corridors. Separate reserve funds would be set up that neighborhoods or city officials could access for projects. If the city uses the money, neighborhood review of the project is required.

The policy board also passed a framework for how funds will be allocated to and spent by neighborhoods that includes a "holdback" mechanism to regulate how much of a neighborhood's funds could be released at one time. The original NRP legislation requires that 52.5 percent of the money spent over the 20 years of NRP must be for housing. The affordable housing reserve fund counts toward that 53.5 percent, but neighborhoods will still need to have significant housing programs to meet the goal.

In Phase II, the amount of money available to neighborhoods will depend on how much they have earmarked for housing in their plans for the first and second phases. To date, neighborhoods have spent 46 percent of Phase II money on housing-related items. To meet the 52.5 percent requirement by the end of Phase II, 90.6 million must be spent on housing.

By the time the policy board met on May 22, the question wasn't if, but how much money the city would shave off the top of the 170.4 - million allocation for NRP Phase II. Earlier in the fall, city leaders targeted NRP as a way to pay for affordable housing initiatives. The issue came to a head at a Feb. 8 community meeting, where it seemed affordable housing activists and neighborhood organizers were being pitted against each other for NRP dollars.

Later that month, the policy board came up with two new options to study for Phase II. One used $12.6 million for affordable housing and the other earmarked $27 million over nine years - 75 percent for affordable housing and 25 percent for commercial corridors.

Policy board members are calling the current plan an obvious, but good compromise between the two previous options. NRP Director Bob Miller said he would have perferred less money to be taken off the top, but that the measure still leaves neighborhoods in control of most of the funds.

Gretchen Nicholls, a neighborhood representative on the policy board and executive director of the Minneapolis Center for Neighborhoods, said she would have liked a plan that required neighborhoods to spend more on affordable housing initiatives.

Councilmember Barret Lane (13th Ward), who serves as alternate representative from the City Council on the policy board, said he didn't personally agree with the plan but voted for it because it was the option most closely related to city priorities.

"I think people are going to be mad; I think they're going to be really mad," Lane said. "We're going to have to go out there and justify this and frankly, I think it's going to be difficult."

In addition to finalizing the plan for Phase II, the results of an outside evaluation will be released to the public later this month. The policy board will see the evaluation June 19 and will hold a public meeting to present it on June 20.

Following the community meetings and a 45-day comment period, the policy board will officially adopt the Phase II model at its July 24 meeting.


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