Housing fair may be last of its kind


The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, a fair sponsor, ends in 2009.

South Minneapolis residents and vendors packed South High School Saturday for the 14th-annual South Minneapolis Housing and Home Improvement Fair.

But some neighborhood organizations fear this may be one of the fair’s last years due to the end of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

The program is funded by the city government and allows neighborhood members to be involved in improving their neighborhood on a grassroots level. It has been in place since 1989.

The program, which is a fair sponsor, will end in 2009, Bob Miller, NRP director, said.

Miller said the program is one of a kind, empowering residents to take neighborhood responsibilities, such as neighborhood watches, home improvements and park cleanup, into their own hands.

While the housing fair is one of the many events the NRP sponsors, it isn’t for everyone and Miller said that is always a problem.

“I’d do a kegger but nobody else wanted to,” he said.

“The problem is that not everything appeals to everybody.”

Miller said Southeast neighborhood landlords, who own houses near the University, could make a better profit from exterior home improvements.

“Part of it is to keep the landlords understanding that if they keep their buildings up and if the community is better, you can get a better rent,” he said. “You can get a more stable client base.”

Miller said he is working to change the legislation that would kill NRP.

Echoing Miller’s sentiments, Rita Ulrich, executive director of the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, said many things will be gone when the program ends.

“We wouldn’t be having the housing fair if it weren’t for NRP,” she said.

Without the program’s funding, Ulrich said the fair would be impossible to staff with volunteers.

Ulrich said the NRP has allowed the Nokomis East neighborhood to invest nearly $3 million into existing housing.

Ulrich said because of a lack in program funding, Southeast Como – a neighborhood typically represented at the fair – wasn’t able to attend.

James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the association’s livability and housing committee decided not to put resources into the fair.

Though the future of the fair is not yet decided, the event brought insight to many residents on lighting, windows, insulation and restoration.

Kristin Degrande, the program administrator for the Center for Energy and Environment, said the new emphasis for home improvements is energy efficiency.

“We have a lot of people that, even today already, are stopping by our booth and asking about geothermal heat pumps and solar panels on their roof,” she said. “People are definitely looking to see what options are out there.”