'Blu on Broadway' spurs debate over affordable housing in Minot

MINOT, N.D. - A Minot project that's tied in to National Disaster Resilience funds took front and center at Tuesday night's city council meeting.

The city's aldermen gave the green light to a plan to develop a property along the city's main drag that would offer affordable housing.

But not everyone was on board with the idea—leading to some thoughtful debate.

This empty lot on south Broadway in Minot could one day be a home for affordable housing.

It's called 'Blu on Broadway,' a proposed mixed-use facility that would go up where the old Pepsi facility once stood.

One issue the project could face is the need for parking. The developer said the city's code needs to catch up with the times.

“Probably the biggest thing on variances is most city code isn't written for mixed use. Comparing parking spots for just apartments, or parking spots just for commercial is different that mixed use,” said Todd Berning, with Epic Companies.

But it also became the focal point of discussion Tuesday evening among city leaders and residents who questioned the need for more affordable housing.

“The city of Minot currently has approximately 10,000 apartments of which over 1,000 are vacant right now. of those 1,000 apartments, roughly 85 to 90 percent currently qualify under affordable housing as dictated by HUD,” said Doug Pfau, Minot resident and businessman.

John Zakian, the resilience manager for the city of Minot, countered, saying as many as 260 residents were on a wait-list for a housing choice voucher program.

“The reason that these residents, mostly families, are not moving in to affordable housing in the private sector is because they don't have the money to cover the gap between the housing choice voucher and what they have to subsidize,” said Zakian.

Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma voiced support for the effort.

“I look at this as a break from what I would like to call business as usual on what we've seen on a lot of other projects, and heading in the direction that some of the best in the industry around the country have pointed to as being a component that we need to look towards in the future,” said Sipma.

The council ultimately approved the project.

The project still has to clear hurdles with regards to funding requests through the NDR program.