Cooperative housing coming to Stevens Square

A Stevens Square Housing organization received $400,000 from the Minneapolis City Council on Dec. 23. to convert two rental buildings into a limited-equity cooperative.

Additionally, the Otto Bremer Foundation will kick in $100,000 toward the project. All together, the project will cost $2.5 million. The Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation initiated the project and wants to begin construction on the two buildings, at 1920 3rd Ave. S. and 1926 3rd Ave. S., in the spring of next year.

A “limited-equity cooperative” is an affordable housing solution and a new concept for Stevens Square. Residents own a share of the building, while the cooperative owns the building as a whole.

The Foundation wants to increase home ownership in the neighborhood and provide an opportunity for low-income families to own their own homes, according to a statement by Plymouth Church Foundation Executive Director Lee Blons.

The building at 1920 3rd Ave. S. will be converted first. Combined, the buildings would bring 38 affordable housing units to Stevens Square.

Aimed at families earning less than $30,000 a year, the initial share price (similar to a down payment) likely will be around $3,000. Monthly housing charges will be $740 and include mortgage, taxes, insurance and heat.

Blons said the project would help maintain long-term affordability in the face of the neighborhood’s ongoing gentrification as more and more condos are built and converted. Cooperatives are an alternative to condos, although there are some similarities between the two models.

Like condos, co-op units can be bought or sold, but with some equity limitations. Cooperative members elect a board to supervise management of the building, similar to a condo association.

Gene Blackledge, a 13-year Stevens Square resident, who currently rents at 1920 3rd Ave. S., said that the co-op is ideal because it will enable him and others to own homes in an area where that has become an unattainable dream for those with modest incomes. Said Blackledge: “I’ve got nothing to show for my 13 years in the neighborhood so far. At least this way there’d be some equity for me to take if I decided to leave.”

Blackledge, also the caretaker for both buildings, added that the co-op conversion could help improve the standard of living in the buildings. “These buildings have been problematic in the past. It’ll give people a strong stake in the future of the neighborhood and safety of the area,” he said.

The Plymouth Church Foundation also is seeking funding from Hennepin County, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

For further information, contact the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation at 871-0890.