April 21, 2010; Source: Twin Cities Daily Planet | The foreclosure crisis has hit some neighborhoods especially hard, including some that had made major advances over the years fighting against the effects of neighborhood deterioration. The Frogtown neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota, is one of those neighborhoods whose decades of neighborhood development progress has been slammed by the subprime crisis. But the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation in partnership with the regional nonprofit developer, Project for Pride in Living, are still devising creative approaches to tackle the neighborhood’s cascading housing problems.
Together, they are hoping to get Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to acquire duplexes and fourplexes and rent them out as affordable apartments. Not surprisingly, some neighborhood residents are concerned that the project will result in an increase of rental units at the expense of owner-occupied opportunities. A neighborhood planning council would like to see these buildings sold to owners, but the council idea runs up against two obstacles: the market for owner-occupied units in this area is still plenty soft, and the subsidies available through NSP II dollars are targeted to very low-income families, few likely to be able to purchase 2- and 4-unit buildings.
The council might also face this unfortunate reality: if a CDC like Greater Frogtown doesn’t acquire these units, private speculators will, and the result will be less neighborhood control, less attention to housing quality, and the possibility of speculators’ milking and “flipping” the properties leading to even more neighborhood deterioration. Greater Frogtown is an award-winning nonprofit CDC. The neighborhood will only benefit with GFCDC’s acquisition, rehabilitation, and renting of these buildings.—Rick Cohen