Affordable housing apartments on church property get go-ahead in Inver Grove Heights


courtesy of the City of Inver Grove Heights • A new Center City Housing affordable housing apartment complex, Cahill Place, will be built in the north side of the property where River Heights Vineyard Church currently resides, at 6070 Cahill Ave. The Inver Grove Heights City Council approved land-use resolutions May 29 that clear the way for the development.

At its May 29 meeting, the Inver Grove Heights City Council approved a series of resolutions that will allow for a new affordable housing apartment building for low-income families to be built on property currently owned by a church. 

Tom Link, community development director, said the request for the property located at 6070 Cahill Ave. was to change the comprehensive plan designation on the north part of the property from public institutional to high-density residential. There was also a request for the zoning to have a similar change as well.

The requests were related to a potential development of a 40-unit apartment building on the north side of the property, with River Heights Vineyard Church on the south. 

Link said the apartment building would be affordable housing for low-income families, and that city staff recommended the council approve the plans.

 

Fulfilling a need

Rick Klun, executive director of the developer, Center City Housing, and Nancy Cashman, also with Center City, were at the May 29 meeting.

Klun said a community needs assessment was done for Dakota County a few years ago and it identified how many families were in immediate need for the type of housing City Center Housing provides. The number was well over 100 and didn’t include homeless youth or single adults.

Klun said the project has received a $750,000 loan from Dakota County Community Development Agency.

The apartment building would have staff on duty at all hours and be secure, Klun said, and the units would have two or three bedrooms and there will be an early childhood programming space. 

Cashman said the building, slated to be called Cahill Place, would be geared towards families with children that have struggled with housing stability and need additional support.

“We’re really ensuring we’re providing the level of support that is designed to meet the type of families that we anticipate we’ll be serving,” she said. 

There would be a mix of homeless families or those at risk of homelessness. Cashman said services would focus on safety, education, employment and mental/physical health. 

She added staff would help tenants with finding job training skills and additional training resources in the community. 

School-aged youth programming would also be available. Cashman said children in highly mobile families often fall behind in school.

Klun said they are working on three applications for funding that include low-income tax credits with the Minnesota Housing Agency and the Dakota County CDA. There is also money for housing infrastructure bonds that would be a third funding opportunity.

“We’re pretty confident, between the three of those and Dakota County working with Minnesota Housing, [that] we stand a really good chance of being funded,” Klun said. 

 

A common goal

River Heights Vineyard Church Pastor Peter Benedict said the long-term plan for the church showed it only needs the land it’s currently on.

“The rest of the land currently has no purpose. We would really love to use everything God’s given us to serve the community around us in some way,” he said. 

Benedict said he met with the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing and the county CDA. In the process, he was introduced to Center City. He said when the church hears the top need of the county is for this kind of housing and they have what “looks like the perfect place for it,” he wanted to implore the city to help them make it happen. 

“I can speak on behalf of the entire community, everybody is completely in favor of seeing this happen,” Benedict said. “We really care about this.”

 

Questions about security 

Council member Paul Hark asked how occupants would be chosen for the apartment. Cashman said they have to follow all fair housing laws and rules. There would be tenant selection criteria. 

Mayor George Tourville asked about what happens if someone no longer fits the criteria. Cashman said people can stay for as long as they need or want to. The goal is to help people move out of poverty. 

“People don’t want to stay there forever. They want their lives to be different,” she said, adding they would work with people to finish their education and find employment.

The goal would be to help people get stabilized and move along. Cashman said they expect to see some families stay for a long time because of a variety of reasons.  

Hark also asked if there would be more than one entrance/exit at the front of the building. 

The only way to get in and out will be the front door, Cashman said. Those coming to visit tenants will leave their I.D. at the front desk, and the tenant will have to come get the guest. When they guest leaves, they will get the I.D. back. 

“What we have found is just that practice, which isn’t necessary with 98 percent of the guests who come to visit, does deter people who want to maybe be involved in some nefarious behavior, because you don’t really want to leave your I.D. at the door,” Cashman said. 

Council member Tom Bartholomew said he believes the project is a good fit for the area and community. 

“Typically these are kind of hard things to fit into a community because of opposition and location ... This one seems to fit,” Hark said, adding he thinks there are probably people who aren’t happy with the project.

He said what he finds impressive is the partnership with the church and the commitment to 24/7 security. 

Council member Kara Perry said she thinks two years ago there were 15 homeless families in the school district. That number has risen to 40. She said Dakota County, in general, needs more housing like this. 

All items relating to the project passed unanimously, with council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech absent.

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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