A Minneapolis Public Housing Authority house before it was rehabilitated, left, and after, right. Credit: Minneapolis Public Housing Authority

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority is asking legislators to award the agency a $45 million grant to repair subsidized homes for low-income families, noting that there is a backlog of maintenance needs.

More than half of family homes operated by the agency’s nonprofit Community Housing Resources are in need of repairs. The agency owns more than 700 family homes it describes as “deeply affordable.” The properties house more than 3,100 residents, most of whom are people of color, according to housing authority officials. 

The agency also owns and manages other family homes and apartments.

“This serves 80 percent of our family housing for MPHA, and it’s probably the largest, deeply affordable housing portfolio that serves people of color in the region,” said Abdi Warsame, the agency’s executive director and CEO. 

The agency is seeking a one-time cash grant from the state’s projected $17.6 billion budget surplus through a new bill that was introduced Monday by Minnesota State Senator Omar Fateh. 

A map of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s Community Housing Resources homes. The agency describes these properties as “deeply affordable family homes.” Credit: Minneapolis Public Housing Authority

Without the investment, the cost for repairs will grow increasingly more expensive and divert funding away from adding more affordable family housing to its roster. The projected cost to repair the agency’s family homes will near $85 million by 2032, according to the housing authority.  

Eighty-seven percent of residents living in housing authority family homes are Black, 85 percent are female-led, and their average income is $20,722, said housing authority officials. 

Since 2020, 17 percent of all families leaving housing authority homes have purchased their own homes, according to the agency.

“A lot of the aims and goals of the legislature at this time [is] to address inequality in our society, to help families of color—Black families—become more stable and become more successful,” said Warsame. “And I think that the number one goal here is just putting roofs over folks’ heads and making sure that they live in stable homes that they could be proud of. And I think that’s what this will help us tackle.” 

Black Minnesotans have the lowest rate of homeownership in Minnesota, while whites have the highest rate, according to 2021 U.S. Census Data.

A Minneapolis Public Housing Authority house that was recently recently rehabilitated. Credit: Minneapolis Public Housing Authority

Funds from the grant will be dispersed in fiscal year 2024 if the bill passes, said Drew Halunen, assistant director of administration, communications, and strategic partnerships for the housing authority. 

Thirty-five million dollars of the $45 million grant would be deployed over the first five years to tackle a longstanding backlog of repairs. Ten million dollars would be used over another five years to address needs as they arise, said Laura Dykema, the housing authority’s director of planning and development.

Exterior repairs, such as roofing, would most likely be the first repairs to be addressed. As residents move out of the homes, which happens about 70 times a year, interior repairs such as fixing kitchens and bathrooms will be addressed, Dykema said. 

Another goal is to use the funds to make 5 percent of housing authority family homes compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, Dykema added. 

“We want to basically overcome the decades of divestment that has been put into this portfolio, and we believe that this will stabilize these families—and also those folks who are on our waiting list—to be able to get housing as well,” Warsame said. 

Katelyn Vue is the housing reporter for Sahan Journal. She graduated in May 2022 from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Prior to joining Sahan Journal, she was a metro reporting intern at the Star...