Messages from the Council Chair

Building success on success

May 2018

“You are never more vulnerable then when you are at your peak,” goes an old saying. The Twin Cities region has low unemployment, a diverse, thriving economy, property values are high, and we are consistently rated as one of the best places in the nation to live and work.
 
Council Chair Alene TchourumoffYou know a “however” is coming.
 
We’re setting the stage for regional decline if we allow ourselves to become complacent. 
 

The Met Council’s preliminary community-level population estimates for 2017 show that growth in our region is averaging about 8%. That’s a clear indicator of a good economy, that people want to come to the Twin Cities. If these growth trends continue, we will have another 700,000 people living and working in our region by the year 2040.
 
But challenges are arriving with those new residents. Housing prices are rising quickly, which also means affordable housing is in short supply. More people are on our roads getting to work and school, adding to congestion.
 
Early warning signs point to the importance of making key investment that promote prosperity now.
 
According to a ranking by nine regional chambers of commerce and business groups, when it comes to access to transit, our region dropped from fifth place two years ago to 12th place today. Nearly 60 percent of the region’s growth is occurring in communities served by existing or planned transitways, like the Blue Line and A Line. By 2040 our region will see an 80% increase in demand for transit.
 
Business groups like Greater MSP and the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce are concerned about this, but state lawmakers have not responded. Minnesota legislators had an opportunity to invest in transit though the state’s bonding bill. But the session adjourned with no funding for transit expansion – a missed opportunity.
 
Affordable housing is another critical issue. The number of housing units being added to our region is not keeping pace with population growth. With vacancy rates at 4%, rising rents and home prices are causing low and moderate-income workers to be priced out of the communities they live in.
 
These trends are hitting communities of color disproportionately. The Met Council’s own research shows that we are well behind our peer regions when it comes to home ownership in these communities.
 
I cannot overstate the risk we are running when it comes to tapping into our region’s greatest resource – our people. In a global economy, we simply cannot afford to limit the ability of every person in our region to create, innovate, imagine and lead.
 
Here at the Met Council we make plans for addressing problems. It was the first job the Legislature gave us when we were formed 50 years ago. But no plan will yield results if you don’t have the commitment to carry it out. We can’t afford to let up on our efforts to build a thriving region that offers opportunity for everyone.

Alene Tchourumoff

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