Hennepin County to expand affordable housing stock with purchase of Aqua City Motel

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Hennepin County has purchased another motel with plans to turn it into affordable housing.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, the county has been trying to use motels for homeless shelters and low-barrier housing.

But now they’re working on turning those properties into permanent housing for people struggling to find a place they can afford.

“This type of housing, in particular, is going to make an impact,” said Julia Welle Ayres, Housing Development and Finance director for Hennepin County.

Welle Ayres has been leading the county’s program aimed at establishing more low-income housing.

The latest acquisition came this month with the purchase of the Aqua City Motel on Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis. It’s the fifth property purchased through the program.

The first few buildings were initially acquired during the pandemic to provide a stable place to live for vulnerable adults.

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“Now that those buildings are no longer needed for that purpose, we are converting those to permanent independent housing,” Welle Ayres said. “We’ll be doing the same with Aqua City.”

Right now, county officials estimate approximately 2,500 people are experiencing homelessness in Hennepin County.

When renovations are complete late next year, there will be 174 affordable apartments for people in need.

Jessie Hendel with Alliance Housing Incorporated partners with the county and manages more than 30 units in a building that is already complete.

“Really it becomes a sense of community of adults all kind of moving out of homelessness together,” she said.

Tenants will sign a lease, pay rent, and care for the units like anyone else. The key difference, Hendel said, is it’s a place they can afford.

“It’s really important because it stabilizes a group that has an unstable housing history,” she said.

The county spent about 26 million dollars to purchase the properties. Renovations on all five buildings should be complete by Fall 2023.