Messages from the Council Chair

Livable Communities Act has changed lives and our cities

February 2021
Charlie Zelle

Having just been released from jail, a young man is looking for a way to turn his life around. He wants to be around people who can help him find a job and follow his dreams. One of the biggest challenges he faces is finding an apartment he can afford that will rent to someone who’s been recently incarcerated. Statistically, he has a much greater risk of committing a new offense if he cannot find adequate housing.

It makes me proud to know that the Met Council has been a part of addressing this challenge. We were able to help out because of a forward-looking law that Minnesota legislators passed 25 years ago — the Livable Communities Act (LCA).

LCA funding came into play when two nonprofits, Beacon Interfaith and Better Futures Minnesota, partnered to build a 72-unit housing complex for recently incarcerated men in Minneapolis’s North Loop. The Great River Landing project provides more than housing: it offers support for job searches and access to the resources someone needs to chart a new course in life.

But contaminated soil on the building site threatened the ability of the two organizations to build the project. The Met Council was able to join the partnership and provide LCA funding to clean up the site, keeping construction costs where they needed to be to allow the project to succeed.

Today, 72 men are getting a second chance because of a great partnership between nonprofits, the City of Minneapolis, and the Met Council.

Any city in the seven-county metro area can participate in the LCA program. It has helped build new supermarkets on Saint Paul’s East Side and in Oakdale. In Hopkins, it helped to connect the city’s downtown to the new Southwest light rail stop across Excelsior Boulevard. And the program has supported the creation of thousands of affordable housing units across the region.

The nearly 500 polluted sites LCA has cleaned up in 50 cities has cost $132 million, but it has leveraged over a billion dollars in private investment and resulted in more than 1,300 jobs. The LCA money spent on clean-up, affordable housing, and economic development around transit sites has come to $410 million, and leveraged billions in private and public development.

The program only works because the participating cities come to the Met Council with ideas to build better, more livable communities. Cities get those ideas from their neighborhoods, communities, developers, and organizations who are working to have a positive impact on society.

It’s a vital partnership that has worked for 25 years, and we look forward to the next quarter century.