Together we build a stronger region
One of the things I love about the Met Council is the diversity of the work we are engaged in.
In the last few months alone, we set up a grant program to help attract new and diverse groups of people to our regional parks and trails. We supported the City of Hopkins with funding for its Artspace facility so artists can afford to live and work in their communities. We launched a new website that makes it possible for cities to monitor their wastewater flow rates so they can better track how rainfalls may be infiltrating their sewer systems.
All this, of course, on top of collecting and treating about 250 million gallons of water, providing more than 200,000 transit trips each day, and administering the federal Housing Choice Voucher program to 7,200 households monthly.
While all this work seems disparate it’s linked by a common aspiration and shared values – building a stronger region through collaboration. The metro area has seven counties and 186 cities and townships. The big issues we face – clean water, mobility, affordable housing – cross municipal boundaries and require strong partnerships and local community engagement.
By many measures our unique local/regional partnership is working well. During the Great Recession our region’s unemployment was lower than the national average and our economy stronger. We are consistently rated as one of the best places in the nation to live, with great cultural amenities and a world-class regional parks system.
However, we also face real challenges. Our region’s population is growing, supported by strong economic growth, and we are not building enough housing to keep up with demand. Currently our region has a 3% housing vacancy rate, with some cities being as low as 1%. The cost of housing is rising quickly. A new MnDOT report shows that traffic congestion is increasing across the region.
Additionally, several surveys show that the Twin Cities region ranks at the bottom of the nation when it comes to racial disparities. People of color have lower rates of home ownership, high school graduation, and overall income growth than almost every other region.
These problems do not have single, silver-bullet, solutions. It will take hundreds of local approaches, implemented neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city to meet the challenges we face. We are a region powered by partnerships. The Council’s role is to identify the trends, set regional goals, and work with communities to invest in the future.