Revitalization Program is a stabilizing force, study says
The nine-year-old program is "a player" in the increase in housing improvements and home ownership in Minneapolis, it says.

Rochelle Olson, Star Tribune

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

The Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program served as a stabilizing force for home ownership in the city during its first nine years, according to a $280,000 consultant's study that was presented Monday to the NRP Policy Board.

The past decade marked a turnaround in the city and "NRP was a player of some significance," said Neil Mayer, who helped in the study led by TEAMWORKS of San Francisco.

Specifically, TEAMWORKS President Renee Berger said a statistically important tie was demonstrated between NRP's spending and an increase in home ownership and building permits for housing improvements.

NRP is a 20-year $400 million initiative that sends money from downtown Minneapolis development to neighborhood rebuilding programs. About $150 million remains to be spent in Phase II, which will begin next year. The NRP board already has recommended how to distribute the money.

Policy board members heard a three-hour presentation on the 200-page report that they received just as Monday's meeting began. Some expressed disappointment with the broadness of the report and its cost.

NRP Executive Director Bob Miller, however, said the tie between home ownership and NRP investment was worth seeing.

Between 1992 and 1997, the city saw an increase in home ownership of about 3 percent. The report attributed about a quarter of that to NRP. Over that same period, NRP funding in neighborhoods increased the number of building permits for home improvements, the study found.

Regarding who receives NRP money, the study found poor neighborhoods consistently received more as did neighborhoods with higher percentages of substandard homes and greater concentrations of minorities and youths.

An average neighborhood allocation was about $1,068 per household. The difference in spending between a poorer neighborhood and one with more income was about $225. Neighborhoods with a higher concentration of minorities tended to receive about $449 more than those with a lower concentration. For neighborhoods with more substandard dwellings, the spending average might be $675 more per household, the study found.

But that spending didn't necessarily mean that the poor, minorities or children benefited from the program, something that Ron Thaniel, a policy aide to Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, said should be a continuing focus.

Policy Board Chairman Mark Stenglein, a Hennepin County commissioner, was among those less than thrilled with the report. He said he wanted more specific criticism and more distinct praise for NRP.

Ken Kelash of the Central Labor Union agreed, saying, "The evaluation confirmed what most people think about NRP: that it has worked fairly well."

During the meeting, Kelash asked the consultants whether the money used in the first phase could have been spent more or less effectively if the city's elected officials had made the choices on spending, rather than the neighborhoods.

Berger said she couldn't answer the hypothetical question. Instead, she said, "What you see is, after 10 years, what happens when citizens have choices."

Policy Board Vice Chairman Nicholas Kakos asked for specific recommendations to help with Phase II planning. Mayer said he didn't have an answer but recommended continued and increased tracking of NRP spending as well as questioning the extent to which certain neighborhoods should be targeted for help.

The report had been due in December, and the policy board already has made recommendations for fund distribution in Phase II. Stenglein said major changes to that recommendation were unlikely. A final decision is expected on Phase II in July.

The study was funded by the policy board, the governmental bodies it represents including the city and the county, and the Minneapolis and McKnight Foundations.

What's next:

NRP study - TEAMWORKS, the California firm that evaluated Minneapolis' Neighborhood Revitalization Program, will present the evaluation to the public at 7 tonight at Heritage Hall in the downtown library, 300 Nicollet Mall.


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