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City Council approves new Opportunity Housing Ordinance

Ordinance will preserve and create more affordable housing opportunities

February 27, 2019

Bloomington, MN—The Bloomington City Council approved an opportunity housing ordinance at its regular meeting on February 25. In drafting the new ordinance, the City engaged developers, nonprofits, trade associations, and community stakeholders in the effort to preserve and create new affordable housing opportunities in Bloomington.

The ordinance includes an innovative approach to development, which provides flexibility and a better partnership model for developers. The ordinance requires that new housing developments of 20 units or greater include at least nine percent affordable units. Developers have options to comply with this requirement to minimize the impact. For example, developers could choose to contribute to a fund that would aid in the preservation or construction of affordable housing.  Developers also have access to a variety of flexibility measures, incentives, and tools to apply to the project, such as reduced parking requirements and development fee waivers.  Flexibility increases as affordability increases.  An “affordable unit” is one that costs 30 percent or less than the monthly income of a household earning the regional median income of $94,300 a year for a family of four in 2018.

Having sufficient affordable housing opportunities in Bloomington not only benefits renters and homeowners, it helps businesses, too. Mayor Gene Winstead said that to ensure local employers have access to a strong workforce—from manufacturers to office or hospitality workers—there must be stable, affordable places for employees to live nearby.

“What we’re finding is that for many in Bloomington’s work force—including teachers, nurses and police officers—housing has become difficult to afford,” Mayor Winstead said. “We want people from all economic levels to be able to work and to live in Bloomington and this is just another way to do it.”

The opportunity housing ordinance also helps provide housing stability for renters and tenant stability for property owners. It allows tenants who qualify for an affordable unit to grow their income up to 140 percent in a five-year period without needing to leave the unit when they initially rise above the income limit. Landlords do not want to lose good a tenant simply because the tenant makes more money.

Aeon, a nonprofit developer, owner and manager of affordable homes for more than 30 years in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, serving more than 8,000 individuals, is a supporter of Bloomington’s new opportunity housing ordinance.

“I think Bloomington is in the forefront with this ordinance,” said Aeon Vice President of Housing Development Blake Hopkins. “We do a lot of work throughout the state and this is the most comprehensive affordable housing package that we’ve seen. I think it will have a real impact on the community.”

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