St. Paul gives its blessing to new Ramsey County property tax for affordable housing – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

The St. Paul City Council recently gave its blessing, by unanimous vote, to a new Ramsey County tax levy dedicated toward affordable housing, half of which will be situated within the capital city.

The goal is to raise up to $11.6 million annually for deeply affordable housing countywide. Ramsey County is the only county in the metro that does not impose its own Housing and Redevelopment Authority levy.

According to the resolution approved by the city council on May 26, the new county funds will be used to expand homeownership programs, offer “gap” financing and land acquisition funds, and allocate resources to increase the competitiveness of St. Paul and Ramsey County housing projects when applying for state grants.

The city authorization is granted on condition that at least 50 percent of the money will be spent on projects located in the city, and the county will seek approval from the city before commencing a project within city limits.

According to county officials, nearly half of renters and 20 percent of homeowners in Ramsey County are “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing expenses. Council President Amy Brendmoen noted that in addition to demand for housing for the very poor, St. Paul lacks affordable senior housing more common in the suburbs.

“The purpose of this levy will be for affordable housing, which we all know is not only greatly needed in St. Paul but (throughout) Ramsey County,” said St. Paul Council Member Chris Tolbert, who chairs the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. He noted the city retains the authority to withdraw its consent at any time.

Most cities within Ramsey County do not have the option of opting out of the new county HRA levy, but St. Paul and North St. Paul had until the end of May to decide whether to participate because they established their out housing and redevelopment authorities prior to the county gaining legal authority to do so in the early 1970s.