Hennepin County buys 5 motels to house the homeless

Cited as a cost-saving measure.

Earlier this week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Hennepin County has used $25 million in federal pandemic funds to purchase five motels to house the homeless.

During the pandemic, Hennepin County created a strategy to keep those experiencing homelessness and those most susceptible to getting COVID-19 safe — rent them hotel rooms.

But the concept was getting expensive and the county decided in late 2020 it would just be cheaper to buy hotels.

More than $25 million was spent to buy five properties, mostly paid for by federal pandemic recovery funding. They are being renovated into hundreds of affordable single-room places to live and will be run by agencies contracted by the county.

Star Tribune, 1/28/2023

Of course, much of the savings comes from avoiding sales taxes, lodging taxes, and property taxes by owning rather than renting rooms by the night from a private company.

Two of the properties are “Route-66-style” motor courts located on adjacent blocks in south Minneapolis on Lyndale Avenue.

According to Hennepin County property records, the county purchased the Aqua City Motel back in September 2022 for $1,850,000. Records show that the building dates to 1968.

The motel is currently boarded up and covered in graffiti and snow.

It must have been a wonder when it was brand new.

One block north, the Metro Inn sits abandoned.

The little red sign reads, “No Vacancy Motel Closed.”

Metro Inn was purchased by the county back in November 2020 for $2,550,000. The building dates back to 1954.

The Star Tribune reports,

The Metro Inn should open to new residents this summer, but plans for the Aqua City Motel are still in the works because it was bought just a few months ago.

New York City has tried a similar strategy of housing the homeless and recent migrants in hotels. Of course, being New York City, the whole business is frightfully expensive.

Until recently, the City had been housing new migrants at the Watson Hotel in midtown Manhattan, among others. Efforts to relocate the migrants to a cruise ship terminal in Brooklyn have failed.

Migrants are being housed at the Row Hotel at a cost of $500 per room per night. The City reports that nearly 26,000 migrants are being housed at some 300 hotels across New York City.