Rooming Houses Are an Important Part of the Affordable Housing Patchwork

I read almost weekly about the ills of rooming house life.  My google alerts bring me stories of fire, over –crowding, and substandard conditions.  In Minneapolis, zoning codes prohibit new rooming house licenses.  Some of you will be surprised to hear that there are still a few rooming houses out there. I toured a few existing properties a few years ago and found many of the properties worn out, but at full occupancy.  

Alliance Housing gets multiple calls every day from single adults looking for an apartment.  Some are not too keen on  the idea of sharing a kitchen and bathroom with other adults until they learn they’ll have a lease in their name and rent is under $350.  Once they are in our attractive, well-cared for building in Whittier, or one of our properties in the Powderhorn, Phillips, and Central neighborhoods, they quite happily settle in having more control over their housing situation than they’ve had for a long while.  

A profile of our rooming house tenants makes it hard to put a finger on exactly who needs this type of housing.  Our tenants who rent rooms are varied: men, women, working, not working, old, young.  38% of them are working,  45% are disabled and on some sort of government program,  14% are retired and receive a government or VA pension.  The kinds of jobs our tenants have range from parking lot attendant to retail clerk, from fast food and janitorial work to day care.  A few work seasonal landscaping and construction labor jobs.  The most unique employment is a job on the carnival circuit.  Some jobs pay cash.  Most pay no benefits.  

At an average income of $11,734, men and women who want their own place are well matched with the price of rent in an Alliance room.  The average one bedroom apartment in south Minneapolis costs $788 per month.  To pay 30% of one’s income or less for this rent would take a minimum wage person 65 hours per week or a much higher wage at less hours.  Alliance’s rooms are affordable under the same terms for 27 hours per week. Continue Reading