Messages from the Council Chair

Meeting the region’s need for affordable housing

June 2016

As our region continues to grow, one of the biggest needs we will continue to see is the need for affordable housing. Between 2020 and 2030, our region will add 37,400 low- and moderate-income households who will need additional affordable housing. And the number of households paying more than half their income on housing continues to grow.
Council Chair Adam DuininckThe Metropolitan Council collaborates with local governments to find ways to expand housing choices across the region, while providing support to cities as they work with affordable housing developers and promote mixed-income neighborhoods.
There’s a moral imperative to ensure that all people in our communities have safe, reliable and affordable housing. But there are economic reasons, as well. Failing to ensure that all areas of our region have adequate affordable housing could significantly impact our economic competitiveness as we strive to succeed in a global marketplace.  
A range of housing options benefits people, businesses, and local governments. Employers in all communities rely on affordable housing to have access to a pool of workers they need to continue to grow.
As a quality-of-life issue, access to affordable housing allows people to live and work, raise children, and retire in the same community. Young people should be able to choose to remain in the community they grew up in, even if just starting out their careers in an entry-level job after graduation. On the other end of the spectrum, people who retire on a fixed income shouldn’t have to leave their communities to find affordable housing.
Having a mixture of market and affordable housing helps build prosperous, livable communities and families. Data shows that affordable housing provides stability that leads to improved educational outcomes for children who are homeless or highly mobile. As we think about how our region can work to address our shameful disparities that impact issues like education, housing and employment, providing our youngest residents with stable housing is one tool we have at our disposal.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this issue; each community will need its own unique plan to move forward. Right now the Council is working with communities to identify future affordable housing needs and provide assistance as cities plan for those needs.
This summer we’ve been working with the Family Housing Fund and the Urban Land Institute-Minnesota to hold a series of workshops on mixed-income housing. Mixed-income housing has the potential to create new affordable housing with lower public subsidies, in a way that supports diverse, resilient communities. Rather than building stand-alone affordable housing developments, incorporating affordable housing units into market-rate developments may prove to be a viable way to create more stable mixed-income housing.
This approach avoids the stigma and social isolation that can be associated with low-income neighborhoods with a large supply of affordable housing. It also allows new housing types to be built in higher-income neighborhoods in a way that better integrates housing into the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The Council is providing a customized online tool for cities and developers to use to help calculate the feasibility of incorporating affordable housing into a market-rate development. That tool should be ready to launch later this year.
Our goal at the Council is ultimately to advocate for choices for our region’s residents. Whether they want to remain in their neighborhoods or seek out opportunities in new areas, all residents should be able to find housing and access jobs no matter where they live in our region. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with communities as we actively pursue ways to provide real choices to families in our region.

By Adam Duininck

Tags: equity