Time to focus: transit funding, affordable housing and equity
At the start of the 2018 session of the Minnesota Legislature, I think it’s important to refocus our attention on the three biggest challenges facing our region today. How we address these issues now, will have impacts that could – for better or for worse – impact our region for generations to come.
Having quality, affordable housing is critical for a stronger, more prosperous region.
The need for affordable housing is outpacing supply. More than 10 years ago, we told cities in our region that we would need another 52,000 affordable housing units over the current decade just to keep up with household growth. But we’ve created less than 25% of that. Since 2000, the number of households that spend more than half of their incomes to pay for housing has gone up by 77 percent.
This is unsustainable. And everyone is affected by rising prices: growing families, aging people looking to downsize, young workers who want to relocate here, and businesses trying to recruit talent.
A modern transit system.
Transit in our region provides almost 100 million rides a year. Most of those riders are people going to work or school.
The need for innovation and investment in our transit system is growing. By 2040 our region will add another 700,000 people. That’s the equivalent of almost the entire population of North Dakota moving here. We expect to see the demand for transit increase by 80%.
In addition to new light rail transit lines, our region will need 17 new rapid bus routes, 46 new local bus lines and significant upgrades to 76 existing local bus routes just to meet the basic needs of the increased ridership we expect. We have a plan to build out the system.
But there’s one catch. We don’t have the funding to implement that plan. While the demands on our system are growing, our funding is unreliable and stagnant, at best.
A place of opportunity for all.
Finally, we must continue addressing the problem of equity in our region.
When you compare us to the rest of the nation, the Twin Cities area ranks worst when it comes to the disparity between white people and people of color for homeownership, employment and income. We’re dead last.
Our region is changing. By 2040, 40% of our population will be made up of people of color. We can’t hope to remain competitive in the global marketplace if we have a society that leave four out of ten people behind. But even more important, we owe it to future generations to lay the ground work for a Twin Cities region where everyone has access to opportunity.
As we engage in the upcoming session, let’s keep these ideas in in the forefront of our work. I wish there was a magic piece of legislation that could fix these problems in one fell swoop, but it won’t be that easy. We’re going to have to continue building partnerships and innovating solutions for long-term change that benefits our region for generations to come.