The Brooklyn Park City Council unanimously approved a mixed-income housing policy at its Nov. 27 meeting.

Broadly, the policy will require that any rental multi-family housing unit developments with more than 10 units that receive city financial subsidy – or require land use or zoning changes – will be required to include a certain percentage of units to be affordable at 30, 50 or 60 percent of area median income.

The adopted policy was drafted after several work sessions with the council starting in July 2017, and most recently, the council provided feedback on a draft policy at its Oct. 23 meeting. Community organizations and housing advocacy representatives have also provided feedback on the policy.

“I just want to say that I’m really proud of this policy—I think that this is a great policy for our city,” Councilmember Susan Pha said.

“As someone who spends my days working on behalf of homeless people, homeless young people, for me, I know the importance of maintaining—at the very least—affordable housing as we do have it in our community,” Councilmember Lisa Jacobson said.

Approximately 24 percent of Brooklyn Park homeowners are considered cost burdened by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is, these homeowners spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

Additionally, 56 percent of renters in the city are cost burdened. Approximately 26 percent of renters are considered severely cost burdened, or spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

Developers who build multi-family housing units that receive city or Economic Development Authority assistance, original or amended planned development overlay or would otherwise require a change of city ordinance, zoning map amendments, or Comprehensive Plan amendments, would be subject to one of three requirements for affordable units.

Developers can pick from the following affordability requirements: at least 5 percent of total project units affordable for households at 30 percent of area median income, or an income of $27,120 for a family of four; at least 10 percent of total project units affordable for households at 50 percent of area median income or $45,200 for a family of four; or at least 15 percent of total project units affordable for households at 60 percent of area median income, or $54,240 for a family of four.

These units will need to remain affordable for at least 20 years. City staff members originally proposed a 30-45 year affordability period, but reduced the length based on council feedback.

“I like the compromise that we have,” Councilmember Terry Parks said.

Parks noted that he would have also voted in favor of the policy if the affordability period had remained at 35 years.

The affordability requirements were also reduced in the adopted policy. The draft policy proposed that a developer would need to offer at least 20 percent of total project units affordable at 60 percent of area median income, rather than the adopted 15 percent.

While the draft policy offered parking incentives to developers, at council request, these incentives were removed from the adopted policy.

The policy requires that affordable units be consistent with market-rate units in construction and finish, as must be intermixed in the development.

Developments that fall under this umbrella will not be allowed to discriminate against tenants who pay rent with federal, state or local public assistance, including but not limited to rental assistance, rent supplements or Housing Choice Vouchers.

These requirements could have a financial impact on proposed rental housing developments, which could result in funding gaps for developers. The city could invest funds to offset these gaps, such as Tax Increment Financing Housing Set-Aside funds or general Economic Development Authority funds. The city could also create new tax increment financing districts to fund developments.

Several council members spoke positively about the policy, along with the outreach done by community groups such as African Career, Education and Resources Inc., and La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles.

Both organizations advocated for the adoption of such a policy during an Economic Development Authority work session and spoke in favor of adoption of the policy during the meting.

“For [ACER and La Asamblea], stuff like this doesn’t happen unless you push for it,” said Councilmember Mark Mata.

“You have to ask, you have to fight, you have to be willing to take sacrifices, and things don’t always turn out your way, but this is something that I think is in a direction for you guys, so I commend your efforts and your time,” he added.

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