Developer approaches NB about building multi-unit housing complex

By Derrick Knutson—

For the second time in as many years, MWF Properties is proposing building a multi-unit residential housing complex near 400th Street in North Branch.

In 2011, MWF submitted a tax credit housing project for a 40-unit building called “Northside Villas,” which would have been construction on the north side of 400th Street.

The project had the support of the City Council, but in order to qualify for tax credits, it had to meet an array of qualifications set forth by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

The agency awards tax credits – which are utilized for low-income housing – on a point basis.

MWF’s proposal last year fell three points short of qualifying.

This year, MWF is confident it has a project that will be approved by MHF.

“We’re hoping to provide some of much needed housing,” Chris Stokka, a development associate with MWF Properties told the city council while pitching the project during the council’s March 15 meeting.

“We’re also bringing a $6 million project, so that will bring additional revenues to the city in the form of tax base.”

MWF is again seeking approval from the council to proceed with the project in the city, but there are a few key changes from the previous project.

The main one is the proposed location of the building.

In order to score higher on MHF’s project awarding scale, one parameter is to have the building within 10 miles of a “high growth” area, either industrially or residentially.

The city of Wyoming has been labeled by MHF as one of those high growth areas, and if the structure was constructed south of 400th Street, it would fall within that 10-mile bubble.

Stokka said he’s spoken to MWF about stretching that circle further so the complex could be built north of 400th, but MWF won’t budge.

Homeless units 

Another difference from last year’s proposal that has been added to secure more points, is the addition of four units that would be available to people struggling with homelessness.

The units would be restricted to families with incomes at or below the area median income of $22,680. Three people could live in each unit.

A family must have lacked a permanent place to live for one continuous year or been homeless at least four times in the last three years to qualify.

The families would be charged rent, but it would be a lower amount than what other residents of the complex pay.

Families would be eligible for the homeless housing for a max of five years.

Stokka said the focus of the homeless units is “to help the families become independent and work their way up to paying fair market rent.”

The homeless units sparked some discussion among council members.

Council member Ron Lindquist took exception to verbiage in the proposal that stated, “Previously homeless person(s) who will be discharged from correctional, medical, mental health or treatment centers who lack sufficient resources to pay for housing and do not have a permanent place to live (will be eligible for the housing).”

Lindquist mentioned MWF requires background checks of all applicants, and he queried Stokka about how someone who just left a correctional institution could be approved for housing.

Stokka said property management evaluates each application on a case-by-case basis, and if the recently released person is a non-violent offender who would likely not pose a risk to other residents, he or she could be approved for housing.

Mayor Amy Oehlers said some residents might not like having someone with a criminal record living next to them, but those people need places to live.

“When people are incarcerated and they’re released, they have paid their debt to society,” she said. “It’s a hard thing for people to understand, but we have to keep that in our forefront.”

The council could vote to approve or deny MWF’s proposal as soon at its April 9 meeting.

If the project is approved, it will reside in a Tax Increment Financing District and the city will be able to make use of pooling TIF funds that were leftover after the Ecumen senior housing development was built in 2006.

  • Resident

    I’m so glad to hear that after working my butt off to buy a house in a good neighborhood, I’m about to be overrun by a housing development that will cater to “Previously homeless person(s) who will be discharged from correctional, medical, mental health or treatment centers who lack sufficient resources to pay for housing and do not have a permanent place to live (will be eligible for the housing).” Just great. It’s bad enough that will all the foreclosures in town just anyone with $500/mo. can buy a house. If I wanted to live in the “Cities” I would.

  • Jeff

    I understand the desire to find anyone who is willing to build anything in town, but the last thing we need is additional low income housing. Who will be funding the housing? All of us through taxes that’s how. So essentially we are being asked to pay additional taxes and then have to address the many problems lower income housing is commonly known for. I understand that not all of them are bad, but statistics show that a good percentage are. The crime statistics and police calls to similar housing developments don’t lie.

    All of us in North Branch need to stand up and say no to this proposal. Another example of redistribution of wealth!

  • Michelle

    I have worked in the Property Management field for over twenty years and I can assure you that tax credit housing is not low income housing, it is affordable housing and most people that live in tax credit housing do work and do pay taxes. As for the four units designated for people struggling with recent chronic homelessness, yes there can be serious issues but there are also many families that, due to unemployment or underemployment or a medical crisis, or someone who finds the strength to leave an abusive situation, find themselves homeless. Once homeless it is very difficult to regain momentum, not impossible but difficult. Please show the statistics of high crime in affordable housing properties and also please show the entire community crime rate statistics as a whole.

  • Resident

    I do not understand why we need more low income housing in North Branch. I recently drove around town looking at properties for sale to buy as an investment. There are many, many houses for sale for under $100,000, and a great deal of those are even under $75,000. The mortgage on one of these houses would be UNDER $500/mo. I don’t believe you would find many apartments to rent at that rate. Why isn’t one of these housing organizations helping these people to buy the houses that are already available? We have so many foreclosures in town it isn’t even funny. I just don’t see where the need is for more housing. My house value has dropped over 50% due to all the foreclosures and I’m sure having more low income housing within a half mile of my house will not help rectify that.

  • Resident

    Michelle, I find it hard to believe that a family of 3 living on income of $22,680 is paying any taxes. The standard deduction, combined with the Earned Income Tax credit, and I’m assuming at least one of these people would be a child who would qualify for the $1,000 Child Tax Credit, would mean this family would pay zero income tax. In fact, they would probably receive a hefty tax refund. So yes, we are paying for this family to live in this housing.

  • http://ecmpost wayne

    north branch city council fails the residents of North Branch again.. should be the headline. hard to say which is the bigger joke.. the city council or the school board.. or the fact that I have a mortgage on a house in this town. sad.. just sad