The tale of affordable housing in the Twin Cities is a sure to be a saga, with many victories, along with setbacks. With the local housing market at its very competitive state leading to climbing costs, affordable housing is quite scarce – a bit of a low point in the overarching storyline. The current situation is so precarious that Minneapolis mayor, Jacob Frey, has announced that he intends to allocate $50M in next year's budget to affordable housing efforts – a four-fold increase over this year's budget allotment, according to an article in the Star Tribune. The article details that the large jump for affordable housing funding will not only finance the construction of more units, but also subsidize current rentals, make buying homes easier and possible for more people, and provide assistance and protection for renters. More specifically, the mayor wants to use the money to achieve the following:
- Lift a city cap (currently $25,000) on amount of assistance per affordable housing unit
Increase the city's development of homes on vacant lots
Provide down payment assistance to homebuyers
Protect renters by having more housing inspectors on staff, as well as passing ordinances to prevent evictions without just cause
The article goes on to clarify that the $50M is a goal of sorts, but the final budget dollar amount will be in the hands of the city council.
Across the river, affordable housing is just one of the pieces of the challenging housing puzzle for the city. St. Paul leadership is dealing with a similarly urgent situation when it comes to not only affordable housing but also housing numbers in general. A recent article in the Star Tribune reported that the city's leaders are seeing a critical need to add housing units (~18,000) given the population projections for the coming decade, but they are failing to come up with specific steps to make it happen. A work group formed to address the issues has produced a report that council members found lacking in concrete solutions. The work group is in turn asking for more specific goals and numbers from the mayor and council in order to develop a roadmap to success.
While the major cities work to address housing issues in order to avoid a major crisis, the local homeless population appears to be growing – at least as measured by the numbers taking shelter in light rail trains and stations, according to an MPR piece. Where the number seeking temporary shelter used to be a handful, now it numbers in the hundreds, as stated in the piece. Building more housing takes time, and with the homeless population seemingly growing, leaders can't move with enough speed and urgency.
Photo By Sarah German - Flickr: Leaving town, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23544347