Agate Housing and Services finalizes purchase of the former Metro Inn Motel

The site will offer affordable housing supported by Hennepin County’s Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Strategy

On November 8th, Agate Housing and Services and Hennepin County closed on the sale of the former Metro Inn Motel to Agate. This sale creates 38 units of permanent housing for people earning the very lowest incomes. These single occupancy homes will be affordable to those making about $26,000 a year.

The sale includes a forgivable acquisition loan and affordability operating grant from Hennepin County. In return, Agate will maintain the units’ affordability for 30 years.

Agate was created in 2021, through the merger of St. Stephens Human Services and the House of Charity and is one of the largest service providers in the state.

Kyle Hanson, Agate’s Executive Director shared that “we are thrilled to add the Metro Inn to our portfolio. The folks who live here will have the chance to build a new community, close to excellent amenities. We’re grateful for the partnership with Hennepin County that makes it possible.

Background: A strategy born from the pandemic but designed for long-term impact

In late 2020, the Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HCHRA) purchased four buildings, including the Metro Inn. These buildings would provide protective shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Metro Inn was utilized as a protective shelter throughout the pandemic.

Since 2020, under the HCHRA’s Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Housing Strategy, the county has been converting these and other properties to deeply affordable permanent housing. This strategy directly addresses a growing need for this kind of affordable housing – 53,090 households in Hennepin County are defined as “very low” income, making below 30% of the area median income. Unfortunately, there are only 18,705 rental units affordable to them.

Following a competitive selection process, Agate Housing and Services was selected to purchase the Metro Inn from the HCHRA, subject to 30-year affordable housing restrictions. Agate is well-qualified to do this work, serving more than 8,000 community members who are experiencing homelessness, hunger, and poverty in Minneapolis each year. Agate formally acquired the property after the rehab was complete and will begin to lease tenants shortly.

A permanent home for new neighbors

Oftentimes, people end up in shelters because there are simply not enough affordable housing options, even though they can afford modest rents. Single Room Occupancy units (SROs) provide stable and permanent housing to people who have income and don’t need additional support services, but who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability due to high rent costs. This type of housing is a cost-effective model to “right-size” housing interventions by acknowledging the specific barriers and strengths of a population.

SROs offer quality private single rooms, shared kitchens, and shared or individual bathrooms. Rent is expected to range from $425 to $550 per month. The county leases or sells the properties to experienced property managers to operate the housing and provides ongoing financial support to keep the properties affordable and in good condition.

Agate will provide high quality maintenance, asset management, and person-centered, relational property and tenant management. Units will be marketed and prioritized for people experiencing recent or episodic homelessness, and who only need deeply affordable, basic housing to gain housing stability and pursue their life goals.

Community Engagement

The surrounding South Minneapolis neighborhood has been involved since the early stages of development. They were relieved to see the Metro Inn purchased. Historically, the site was a place of illegal activity; now it will be a property for folks to call home.

Richfield United Methodist Church, in particular, has engaged with the positive change, and is providing welcome kits for the new tenants upon arrival.

Reverends Nate Melcher and Hope Hutchinson are eager for Agate and its residents to move in. “We deeply value loving our neighbors, and cannot wait to welcome our new ones,” said Reverend Hutchinson. “This neighborhood is such a wonderful place to call home, and we are looking forward to sharing it with the new residents of the Metro Inn.”

The church is also organizing a donation of resident welcome packs for move in day. Reverend Melcher explained, “For years, people of this church have prayed and wondered how they could safely and confidently serve our neighbors at what is now the former Metro Inn property. Partnering with Agate Housing & Services is the fresh opportunity we needed. All neighbors deserve dignity and a kind welcome. We hope the welcome kits that we’ve assembled help our new neighbors feel at home here. There is a short list of organizations that, I think, one would want to handle a project like this – Agate is on that list! I’m grateful that Hennepin County selected a partner who knows how to do this well.”

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