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Metropolitan Preservation & Expansion Work
The Problem

The Twin Cities Metropolitan Area continues to face a troubling picture when it comes to affordable housing needs. Recent studies by the BBC and Metropolitan Council taken together show that there are approximately 170,000 cost-burdened households at the start of the current decade, an additional 22,000 new low income households expected to be added during this decade for whom there are no housing subsidies available, and yet another 24,000 low income households added during the next decade with no housing subsidies available.

At the same time, the Metropolitan area is witnessing several phenomena that have a significant impact on existing affordable housing and the production of sufficient new housing to meet the need:

  • The redevelopment of land eliminating existing affordable housing;
  • The development of large parcels of vacant land with potential to create new affordable housing opportunities;
  • NIMBY ("Not In My BackYard") rejections of proposed affordable and high density housing; and
  • Limited prospect of increases in public subsidies for affordable housing production.

Critical Time

Right now is a critical time for addressing the affordable housing needs of the metropolitan region. Many communities are engaging in redevelopment efforts and large land developments without the recognition of the affordable housing needs of the community. At the same time, Cities are required by state law to update/rewrite their comprehensive plans by 2008. These plans include housing elements that plan for their regional share of low and moderate income housing. Based on the estimated 64,100 new low and moderate income households in the region during 2010-2020, the Metropolitan Council apportioned the affordable housing need among cities by assigning the number of units each must plan for as a part of this plan update.

New Approaches

It's time for new approaches to expand the affordable housing supply with the resources already available.  HJC has embarked on a multi-part strategy, often acting in coalition with partner organizations:
  • Website Devoted To Cities' Role In Affordable Housing  Together with the Institute on Race and Poverty and the Humphrey Institute, HJC has created  www.TCHousingPolicy.org, a website designed to serve as a citizen's guide to housing policy advocacy at City Hall.  Here you will find extensive information on every city in the metro area, including progress on current housing goals, future housing goals, the city's score from the Met Council on housing performance, the city's experience with using (or not using) effective housing policies, and much more.  Visitors will also find articles on best practices cities can use, along with background articles on the world of affordable housing.  It is HJC's hope that this website will enable local groups to advocate for the most effective housing policies possible.  We invite you to return to the site regularly, as the information will be continuously updated.  In particular, HJC anticipates posting more material in the future on the role of inclusionary housing practices in Minnesota, both in terms of the legal reach of such policies and how much they can accomplish in creating more affordability.
  • Coalition Created To Monitor Suburban Development Practices Affecting Housing  HJC has convened a series of monthly meetings designed to track events occurring throughout Twin Cities suburbs which may have an impact, positive or negative, on affordable housing.  In some cases, the coalition will be watching for new redevelopments which threaten an existing supply of affordable housing.  In other cases, NIMBY reactions from anti-affordable housing neighbors may call for a response.  Finally, the coalition is particularly interested in large scale development opportunities in which inclusion of an affordable housing component may have been overlooked or minimized.  In some cases, coalition organizations will likely take coordinated action, together with local citizens in selected communities, to push the housing agenda.  For more information, click here.
  • Community Benefit Agreements  The idea of a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) is a notion that Twin Cities groups are borrowing from California. The concept is that where a developer is seeking the support of a neighborhood organization in order to obtain approval for her proposal from city hall, the neighborhood organization will condition its support of the proposal on the developer's negotiation of a legally binding contract with the neighborhood organization to achieve certain neighborhood goals--affordable housing, living wage jobs, minority business opportunities, design and environmental goals, etc. HJC is particularly interested in exploring the utility of CBAs as a means of obtaining more affordable housing units in new developments. In this connection, HJC has recently been asked to represent the Harrison Neighborhood Association of North Minneapolis in its plan to negotiate a CBA with the developer the city selects to redevelop the Basset Creek Valley area.

HJC has other strategies of this type it intends to test out in the future. Stay tuned for new developments appearing here and at www.TCHousingPolicy.org.