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City Council Work Session
Meeting Date: 04/09/2019  
Subject:    Housing Related Policy Topics
From: Grant Fernelius, Community Development Director

Staff plans to update the Council on two topics related to housing policy.  The first issue is consideration of a Fair Housing Policy, which is tied to the City's participation in the Met Council's Livable Communities Program.  The second issue concerns the next 3 year funding cycle for the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs.

Consideration of a Fair Housing Policy

Starting in 2018, all cities that choose to participate in the Met Council's Livable Communities Act (LCA) program must have a Fair Housing Policy in place.  The LCA provides various grant funding opportunities for things like Transit-Oriented Development, brownfield clean-up, environmental investigations and other housing activities.  In 2016, the City was successful in securing a $970,000 grant for Sherman's Riverdale TOD project.  Late last year, Common Bond Communities was awarded a $250,000 grant through the Local Housing Incentives Account for the pending rehabilitation of the Galway Place Townhomes. The matching funds for that project are coming from the City's 2018 CDBG allocation. 

A Fair Housing Policy describes the steps that the City will take in furthering the goals and obligations under Federal Fair Housing Act.  In brief, it establishes a statement of purpose; describes steps to provide fair housing information on the City's website, in person visits and referrals; and then outlines how it will evaluate internal practices from training opportunities to periodic city code reviews.  In addition, the policy identifies things the City will do to encourage greater community engagement in the area of Fair Housing practices.  The City's 2040 Comp Plan does address general housing policies and goals (including Fair Housing), but this policy would take a stronger position on the topic.  

A number of cities, including Bloomington, Edina, and Roseville have already enacted policies, which are largely based on a template and guidebook the Met Council developed last year.  A copy of the Bloomington policy, which was adopted in August 2018, and mirrors the template by other cities, is attached.  Fridley has adopted an ordinance establishing its Fair Housing Practices.  Staff believes there is value in having a policy and there is flexibility in how it can be crafted for local circumstances.  As an initial step, staff would recommend adopting a policy similar to the Bloomington model and then review the policy periodically. There is some time sensitivity to adopting a policy, since funding for the Galway Place town home remodeling is tied to adoption.  Staff would like feedback from Council on whether to move forward with a policy that would need to be considered in the next 30 to 45 days.

CDBG / HOME Program

Every 3 years the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires urban cities and counties to go through a re-qualification process for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs.  The current re-qualification process covers funding for Fiscal Years 2020, 2021 and 2022.  For cities with a population of 50,000+, there is an opportunity to opt-out of the county's funding formula and apply for a separate allocation.  For many years, Coon Rapids did this and operated a stand-alone home rehabilitation program.  In late 2017, the City lost its loan program administrator and chose to return the unused CDBG funds to Anoka County and participate in a county-wide program.  Some of the funds were also set aside for the Pine Point and Galway Place rehabilitation projects.

The HOME program is a separate pot of money awarded to a consortium of communities around the metro area and is administered by the Dakota County Community Development Agency. Coon Rapids has historically participated in the HOME program through the consortium, rather than seek a separate entitlement.

In late March, the City received notices from both Anoka County and the Dakota County CDA that the 3 year re-qualification process would be begin in April for the CDBG and HOME programs.  With regard to the CDBG program, the City must provide notice of its decisions to "opt-in" or "opt-out" by May 1, 2019.  With regard to the HOME program, the City must provide notice to "opt out" by May 10, 2019, otherwise the City's participation renews automatically.

Based on the complexities of administering the CDBG and HOME programs, staff believes it makes sense to continue with the current approach and maintain the arrangements with Anoka County and the Dakota County CDA for the next 3 year funding cycle.  No action would be needed on the HOME program, however for the CDBG program a resolution to "opt-in" would be presented for consideration at the April 16th meeting.
Both of these items are presented for informational purposes.  Staff is seeking feedback and general direction from Council on each topic.

Fair Housing Policy Guide
Bloomington Fair Housing Policy
Anoka County Letter
Dakota County CDA Letter

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