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Minneapolis-St. Paul metro losing more affordable housing than it’s adding, report says

ST. PAUL — If you live in a three-bedroom apartment that rents for $1,400 per month or less, consider yourself lucky. That’s affordable housing, whether it’s subsidized or not, and it’s running out, according to a new report.

The report from the Metropolitan Council, the metro’s regional planning agency, finds that the seven-county metro likely lost more affordable housing than it added since 2011, despite efforts to the contrary.

The report, “At a Loss: Affordable Housing Production in 2017,” states the metro added nearly 9,000 new affordable homes since 2011.

That’s far below the goal of 51,000 new affordable units between 2011 and 2020 to keep pace with demand.

Meanwhile, the report states that the metro lost upward of 1,300 affordable units annually since 2011 — and possibly many more than that. That’s a net loss of at least 1,251 affordable units.

New market-rate development hit a high point with 14,683 housing units added in 2017. Overall, one in every eight new units added to the metro region in 2017 was considered affordable.

‘Housing cost burdens’ drop

On the bright side, the percentage of households considered “housing cost burdened” — or paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing — fell for the sixth consecutive year, from 35 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2017.

There were 19 cities and townships, however, where housing cost burdens worsened or stayed the same.

“Low-income households live in every city and township in the region and the vast majority experience housing cost burden,” states the report, which is updated annually.

The Met Council considers low-income households to be at or below 60 percent of area median income, which is calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

By that definition, a family of four with an income of $51,480 would be considered low-income. The Met Council says housing costs should take up no more than 30 percent of income. To be affordable by that measure, monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment would have to be $1,410 or less.

Most new affordable units can be found in multifamily apartment buildings. Affordable single-family homes and affordable townhouse production hit a new low in 2017.

Losing NOAH

The Met Council report draws on a wide variety of data sources, including the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey and the Met Council’s own housing surveys (metrocouncil.org/data).

Tracking losses of unsubsidized affordable housing is an inexact science. Rents sometimes rise gradually, so there’s no building sale, public financing or demolition to monitor. But trends are clear.

Minnesota Housing, the state’s housing finance agency, identified the loss of NOAH units — unsubsidized or “naturally occurring affordable housing” through the sale and improvement of Class C and Class B multifamily properties, and estimated that the seven-county region has lost roughly 1,300 NOAH units annually since 2010.

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