Housing Stability Update: May 26, 2021

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Housing Stability Update

Thank you for subscribing to this e-newsletter for updates on Ramsey County’s efforts to address housing stability to support those experiencing homelessness. We will regularly share timely updates on our website (ramseycounty.us/HousingStability) and through this e-newsletter.

Ramsey County extends emergency shelter operations to meet community needs

Bethesda shelter

Ramsey County has extended its lease at Luther Seminary through May 2022 and is pursuing a lease extension at Mary Hall, ensuring more than 500 additional beds remain available. The pandemic and its many resulting crises have increased the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community – and many of them are still navigating these challenges today. Extending these leases responds to that continued need, and helps us address the following:

The ongoing need for social distancing
Public health guidance continues to call for social distancing in shelters, which reduces the capacity of permanent shelters like Higher Ground, Union Gospel Mission and Safe Space. Extending our emergency shelter space will continue to help alleviate capacity concerns.

A response to encampments
Last summer, several encampments popped up around the county due to the lack of shelter space. We know that people are still falling through the cracks, so we are working with the City of Saint Paul to ensure that people living in encampments have access to low-barrier shelter space.

The impending lift of Minnesota’s eviction moratorium
With the lifting of the state’s eviction moratorium on the horizon and a severe housing shortage across the nation, we anticipate an increased number of people experiencing housing instability and homelessness, which will create a critical need for this extended bed and shelter space.

Looking ahead to colder months
While the weather is just starting to get warm, we are already thinking about next winter and anticipate a continued and urgent demand for shelter space. Our priority remains having enough beds available for everyone who chooses to come inside.

Ramsey County’s response to the housing crisis

Over the past year, the county has invested more than $20 million towards serving people who are experiencing homelessness in our community. This has resulted in more than 500 beds being added to the shelter system as well as a day shelter that provides indoor space for unsheltered individuals to escape weather conditions, access bathrooms and connect with essential social services.

Continuum of Care
During this time, the county has also worked closely with the City of Saint Paul, service providers and other allies to advance longer-term solutions to the housing crisis through its Continuum of Care program, with the goal of helping people move from homelessness to permanent housing and self-sufficiency. In 2020, 142 people accessed affordable housing through this program, with 72 others also accessing these housing resources in 2021 so far.

HRA levy
However, we still face the challenge that there is simply not enough affordable housing available in Ramsey County. The current market is not building or preserving enough to meet the needs of residents who make less than $25,000 annually, including seniors, low-wage workers, and others.

The county is exploring a property tax levy for its Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which could raise up to $11.5 million a year to fund affordable housing. The funds would support the preservation of existing and the creation of new affordable housing developments and build community wealth by creating pathways to homeownership.

This is one element of the county’s first-of-its-kind Economic Inclusion and Competitiveness Plan, which prioritizes investments in communities of color that will foster prosperity and a more competitive regional economy.

Ongoing efforts
Ramsey County will continue working tirelessly with its partners toward accessible, permanent answers to the housing crisis. Doing so requires a continued combination of both immediate, short-term solutions like shelter lease extensions to support our unsheltered neighbors while simultaneously planning for and investing in proactive, long-term solutions.

Ramsey County and its partners have leveraged CARES funding to provide emergency shelter, temporary housing in hotels and respite care facilities for those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more here.