Peter Callaghan of MinnPost covered the “Sold Out” screening and panel discussion with displaced tenants, organizers, nonprofit developer, and GMHF’s Warren Hanson.
“Crossroads” was the name of a large, almost-50-year-old apartment complex in Richfield that, in 2015, was purchased, renamed and “upscaled” to bring in higher rents in a tight market.
Because of that transformation, which displaced several thousand low and moderate income renters, “Crossroads” also connotes the ongoing loss of what’s called “naturally occurring affordable housing” (NOAH) as investors and developers buy buildings, renovate them and increase rents.
Now, a documentary put together by TPT Minnesota and the Minnesota Housing Partnership is using the stories of the displaced tenants to examine the broader problem of affordable housing supply in the Twin Cities. The documentary, “Sold Out: Affordable Housing at Risk,” debuts Sunday.
At the heart of the story are economic forces that have broad implications for the region. Apartment developers are chasing the higher end of the market, partly due to the high cost of construction in the area, and partly because high demand makes it especially profitable. At the same time, the public and nonprofit sectors are not building enough new units to meet current demand for affordable housing. That disconnect is made worse by the loss of buildings like Crossroads.
“In 2014, the region was able to build 770 new affordable units, using all of our resources and all of our efforts,” Tim Thompson, president of the Housing Justice Center, says in the documentary. “When the 700 units in Crossroads were converted, that in effect canceled out virtually all of that gain from that year’s worth of effort.”
During a panel discussion following a preview of “Sold Out,” one affordable housing developer spoke of the pressures in the market. “The last eight weeks we’ve been bidding on property after property after property and not getting them,” said Alan Arthur, the president of Aeon, an affordable housing developer. “Those are all going to disappear as affordable.”
Arthur estimated the ongoing loss of affordable units at 100 a week in the Twin Cities. Over the next two decades, he said, “We are facing the toughest, harshest housing problem for low-income people in this country,” since the Great Depression. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do to totally stop it, but we need to do all we can to mitigate it.”