On a street called Prosperity, St. Paul developer seeks to cluster tiny homes for homeless vets

·2 min read

On a street called Prosperity, St. Paul developer Jamie Stolpestad is dreaming of installing six prefabricated homes for homeless military veterans.

His plans for a “veterans village” took a step closer to reality on Wednesday when the St. Paul City Council, acting as the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority, approved sale of a sizable parcel of land at 1381 Prosperity Ave. to YardHomes, Stolpestad’s relatively new “tiny homes”-oriented real estate venture. The site sits south of Arlington Avenue and a few blocks east of Lake Phalen.

YardHomes, which was founded in 2020, specializes in compact prefabricated dwellings that are largely assembled off-site and literally trucked into place. The developer envisions six single-level efficiency or one-bedroom apartments connected to city water, sewer and other utilities for veterans who have previously experienced homelessness.

For the land sale, the city’s discounted sale price — $45,000 — is a reduction of $37,000 from fair market value, according to city officials, and one among many key steps toward making Stolpestad’s veterans village move forward. The vacant land had been acquired by St. Paul from Ramsey County 20 years ago following a tax forfeiture in 2000.

“The proposal promises to return a site that has been vacant and maintained with public dollars for more than two decades to productive use and private ownership,” reads a city staff report.

YardHomes submitted its application for the site in May 2021, but zoning proved challenging.

Until now, YardHomes has mostly rolled out backyard “accessory dwelling” units — almost like cabins attached to single-family homes — in Minneapolis. In January, the St. Paul City Council eased a key zoning obstacle by allowing clusters of small cottage homes on a single parcel of land, one of several housing rules softened following the first phase of the city’s 1-to-4 unit infill housing study.

“This is something that has been advocated for for a while now,” said Stolpestad, in an interview Friday. “The city should be applauded for that. This was a significant regulatory change. YardHomes is excited for the opportunity. We’re hopeful of getting roofs on people’s heads before winter.”

The developer is working with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans to locate potential tenants who receive federal housing vouchers through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program. The Greater East Side Community Council recommended to the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority that the land sale and overall project move forward.

“This is a project that has so much community rapport,” said City Council Member Nelsie Yang on Wednesday, noting that support services for the veterans will be key. “It took us a while for us to get here, and I’m really grateful for everyone’s patience. … Housing is just one of many things that actually creates stability in our lives.”