At the Frogtown Neighborhood Forum Tuesday night, about twenty residents gathered to discuss the development of an owner occupied Habitat for Humanity House in the neighborhood as well as the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation (GFCDC)’s request for a non-conforming use permit for two foreclosed properties on the 700 blocks of Charles Avenue. The GFCDC, a local non-profit housing and small business developer and lender, purchased the properties from the City of Saint Paul as a part of their Frogtown Rental Program. The program is a partnership with Project for Pride and Living to renovate vacant properties for families looking for quality rental housing in the neighborhood. The two houses were originally built as duplexes, but as they have been vacant for over a year, the GFCDC needed approval from surrounding property owners and from the community to re-establish the properties as duplexes. The GFCDC is working with Guardian management company, which would screen applicants and upkeep the properties.
While residents overwhelmingly supported the development of the Habitat for Humanity Home, there was some debate about the development of the GFCDC rental properties. Since the GFCDC proposed their program in April 2010, (see related TC Daily Planet article) they have received some opposition to the addition of rental properties in the neighborhood. Some residents wonder why they were not given the option to purchase the properties from the City themselves. This winter, the CDC came up against vocal opponents to their requested non-conforming use permit for a fourplex on Thomas Avenue. The permit was denied and they have since reduced the unit to a three-unit rental property. This meeting, however, had twice as many residents supporting the GFCDC’s request as those voting to oppose it. This may be credited to the increase in community organizing done on the part of the GFCDC with the neighbors surrounding the proposed properties. The opponents voiced similar concerns as in the past, with the additional request for a more transparent process for how vacant properties are acquired from the City and a study of the rental housing stock throughout Saint Paul. The proposed study of rental properties would highlight the concentration of rental units in the Frogtown neighborhood and assess the consequences of a concentration of affordable housing.
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