That’s a wrap: Solar-for-Vouchers pilot program concludes

Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A three-story apartment complex with the Minnetonka Heights Apartments sign in front.The Metropolitan Council’s pilot Solar-for-Vouchers Program has wrapped up, even as planners consider the next steps toward advancing the dual goals of more affordable housing and less reliance on traditional energy sources.

“I’m very pleased with the results,” said Cameran Bailey, Met Council senior planner and program administrator. “We learned a lot and sparked a lot of interest in the concept and the program.

“We were contacted by interested parties from across the country and throughout the industry.  Given the need for affordable housing and the demand for solar and renewable energy options, we know we’re onto something,” said Bailey.

Lesson learned: Additional partners will expand reach of program

The Solar-for-Vouchers program lent technical assistance to owners of multifamily rental properties to install solar panels and reduce energy costs. In exchange, the property owners would rent some of their market rate housing units to families with lower incomes that participate in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.

The Met Council developed the program, centering its strategic priorities of affordable housing and sustainability. Goals included enrolling 5 to 10 landlords and 2 to 3 developers, and adding 75 to 100 new units of affordable housing.

Bailey said they fell short on the number of new units available to low-income families, which totaled about 30, but it wasn’t for lack of trying or interest in the program. Conversations with interested landlords helped to identify barriers to participation, such as eligibility requirements and the short program timeline.

“In the future we would want to incorporate some of the lessons learned and identify new partners that could help us appeal to more landlords,” said Bailey. “We have a small but mighty staff working on this program. We know with additional partners we could expand our reach, benefitting our planet and its people.”

Bailey says with the paperwork in place, the actual installation of the solar panels on the participating properties will take place in the spring of 2022.

Participating property owners say they’re sold

Rich Holst in front of an apartment building.Property owners who signed up share their perspectives on the program:

“At least in some small way I’m helping to contribute to a renewable resource, coupled with providing housing for people who find it difficult to find housing. It really means a lot to me. I’ve been a landlord for 20 years and this has really helped to reinvigorate me personally.”
- Rich Holst, Property owner/participant

“People who have stable housing can get better jobs. That’s one of the priorities — to help people be in a position to help themselves.”
- Ron Hendrickson, R&G Housing

“Our property is a great fit for the program, where we see a high demand for affordable housing and low supply. The idea that in an aging community we can put new renewable resources (to work) — which will benefit not just the community itself but also the residents — was really exciting.”
- Sarah Walter, Heartland Realty Investors, Inc.

Posted In: Communities

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