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ST PAUL, Minn. — Besides a property tax levy increase in 2023, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also proposed something called the Inheritance Fund in his annual budget address on Thursday.
The money would help former residents of the once-thriving Rondo neighborhood.
The goal is to build community wealth and stabilization by offering thousands of dollars in fully forgivable loans, either for down payments or repairs.
The Rondo neighborhood was once the heart of St. Paul’s African American community before it was wiped out in the 1950s and 1960s to build Interstate 94. It’s something Mayor Carter, again, expressed public remorse over in his address.
“Remorse alone will not replace the over $100 million in wealth destroyed by those actions,” he said.
He then proposed moving money from the city’s Housing Trust Fund, that already addresses the current affordability crisis to create the Inheritance Fund.
“For a total of $100,000 in fully forgivable loans to help low-income descendants of old Rondo achieve home ownership and build wealth with their families,” said Carter.
The goal aligns with the work the Rondo Community Land Trust has been doing now for 30 years.
Mikeya Griffin is its newest executive director, whose family moved to the old neighborhood from Mississippi back then and still lives there today.
“They don’t talk a lot about all the things that happened when I-94 came through, but it was a dark time for the community; it was a dark time for my family,” said Griffin. “Rondo is a feeling, as well as boundaries at the same time.”
The nonprofit provides affordable housing across St. Paul to families who buy a home, but leases the land for a monthly fee. It’s an agreement that lasts 99 years.
The trust owns the land — a legal mechanism to keep housing affordable long-term, but the family has the right to do what they want with the land.
Also, if a family sells the home, they keep the equity, plus 25% of any increase in appreciation, leaving the rest for the next owner.
“Now I have the ability to actually help repair and make whole and right a wrong,” said Griffin. “And whether that’s one person or 50 or a million, I get to do that here.”
Griffin says owning a home helps families capitalize on investment, whether to hand it down to their children, help pay down debt or afford a college degree.
The Inheritance Fund, though, is tied up in the mayor’s budget and will exist only if the city council approves it in December.
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