Medina residents to speak up on affordable housing

The Albertville Meadows townhome development is comparable to what is being proposed for Medina by Dominium, a developer and manager of affordable housing projects. Albertville Meadows has a waiting list of 300 families wanting to live there, said Jeff Huggett, of Dominium. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

The Albertville Meadows townhome development is comparable to what is being proposed for Medina by Dominium, a developer and manager of affordable housing projects. Albertville Meadows has a waiting list of 300 families wanting to live there, said Jeff Huggett, of Dominium. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

City Council calls for Town Hall meetings

When Medina wrote its latest comprehensive plan in 2006-2007, the Metropolitan Council required the city to commit to an affordable housing goal of 506 units by 2020, said Mayor Elizabeth Weir.

Affordable housing usually means multifamily housing developments. However, developers have told the City Council that there is no market for multifamily housing in Medina, Weir said. One reason is lack of transportation. Often Medina has allowed developers to build what they say the market is asking for — single-family housing.

And 2020 is a brief six years from now. How can Medina meet its affordable housing goal by then?

An affordable housing proposal from Dominium could help Medina make a dent of 32 units in its affordable housing goal. Dominium is a Plymouth-based owner, developer and manager of multifamily properties nationwide.

Dominium proposes to build 32 affordable townhomes on Clydesdale Trail, north of the Medina Entertainment Center. The Medina City Council is expected to review the Dominium proposal at its June 3 meeting. Dominium needs council approval for rezoning of the site to planned unit development, which would give the developer flexibility with housing density and setbacks.

Meanwhile, the City Council wants feedback from residents before it makes its decision. The council has scheduled two town hall meetings for 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Medina City Hall, 2052 County Road 24, Wednesday, May 28, and Thursday, May 29. City staff will make a presentation, as will Dominium and its partner, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, or IOCP. The audience will be invited to ask questions and make comments.

The Met Council has given Medina a choice of where to locate its heavier population densities and mixed-use developments containing multifamily housing, commercial and retail, Weir said. The city has picked the area north of Highway 55. The Dominium project is in this area, near Medina Clydesdale Marketplace and Target.

The townhomes would provide rental housing for families making 60 percent of area median income and below. This amounts to $49,740 for a family of four. Four of the 32 units would be dedicated to families who have lacked permanent housing for over a year. These families would be supported by services from IOCP, which would require them to commit to turning their lives around. The goal is for these families to find financial stability and move elsewhere.

Tenants in the Dominium development might be police officers, teachers or employees of area businesses, such as Target, OSI or Walter G. Anderson, Weir said. They might even work for the city of Medina. They would be able to afford to both work and live in Medina.

Dominium is proposing townhomes of a quality that would be costly for people to rent, and rent costs would be out of reach for the $49,740 a year family of four. Several financial incentives make it possible for developers to charge affordable rent, said Jeff Huggett, vice president and partner, Dominium Development and Acquisition. A $189,000 Community Development Block Grant and federal tax credits allotted by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency will enable Dominium to keep down cost of rent.

The Medina Dominium project was chosen over 20 other affordable housing proposals in Minnesota to receive the federal tax credits, said LaDonna Hoy, executive director of Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. She added that Dominium has had to leap a number of hurdles to get to this point with the proposed Medina project.

The Medina City Council also might consider waiving fees for Dominium to connect to city sanitary sewer and water. This also would help Dominium keep rent costs.

Dominium owns or manages more than 20,000 units at 205 sites in 20 states, according to its website.

Huggett said his company has been in business for several decades. Over the years, the company has developed a manual about maintaining properties down to smallest details, such as snow removal. Dominion has discovered that if developments are clean and well-kept, people will want to live there.

“This is important to us,” he said.

He added that people must have jobs in order to afford to live in Dominium developments. If tenants do not make rent payments, they are evicted.

People who have doubts about Dominium developments can visit places in the Twin Cities area, Huggett said. One of them is the Albertville Meadows townhomes and apartments, which has a waiting list of 300 families wanting to live there.

Hoy said IOCP has worked with Dominium before to help families who are on the edge. Often families are getting by financially until something happens, such as having no money to repair a sudden car breakdown. If these families have a stable roof over their heads, IOCP can support them with services, such as connections to jobs, child care, health care and educational resources for both parents and children.

IOCP has been successful with other projects similar to the one proposed for the Medina Dominium development. Nine families committed to turning their lives around. Seven of them succeeded, and two opted to leave the program, Hoy said.

She added that some people think of affordable housing as something resembling inner-city apartments owned by absent landlords refusing to keep up their properties. The Dominium proposal for Medina “is nothing like that.”

In her experience, developments such as this one do not negatively affect property values. Once a development is up and running “people will forget what they were worried about,” Hoy said.

“Somehow we’ve got to address the issue of providing mixed housing types in communities,” she said. “It’s not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. It’s a win-win for our economy.”

At a recent Medina City Council meeting, City Councilor John Anderson said he wanted to hear what residents had to say at town hall meetings before he makes up his mind on the proposed Dominium project.

“I don’t want to be sold by Dominium and Interfaith Outreach,” he said.






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