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Nonprofit organizations could get funding for fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings

The Nov. 27, 2019 fire in a Minneapolis high-rise building is still influencing possible legislation.

Five people were killed in the Cedar-Riverside fire, which led to a new law to help fund fire sprinkler installations in certain high-rise buildings. However, some building owners were excluded in the process and Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL-Mpls) is trying to account for those missed.

He sponsors HF4448 that would create a grant program through Minnesota Housing to install fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings owned by nonprofit organizations. An appropriation of $5 million in fiscal year 2023 would fund the program.

The bill was laid over Thursday by the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

“We left out a significant number of high-rise buildings, particularly those that are owned and managed by nonprofit organizations,” Noor said. “We support the public housing through the (general obligation) bonds, but the nonprofits who are excluded from this process may not be able to tap into that resource.”

Grants would go to buildings where at least one floor with human occupancy is “75 feet or more above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access” and at least two-thirds of the building’s units are rented to individuals or families whose annual income is 50% or below the area median income.

Grants would be available up to $250,000 for each eligible building. The program would expire June 30, 2025.

“This is a small request that will help a lot of folks,” Noor said. “Every time I go through that place, I think about what can we do to make sure that those individuals who are in those high-rise buildings live in a safe place. We’ve seen the horrific images that we’ve seen not only in our state but outside in other states. So, it’s time for us to provide a small grant program and encourage those who are left out from our requirement be able to install sprinklers.”

The bill’s companion, SF4170, is sponsored by Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) and awaits action by the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

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