A controversial cluster of Habitat for Humanity homes in Blaine is among the recipients of the latest round of Metropolitan Council subsidies for development projects across the metro area.
Butas the Met Council seeks to plant affordable homes in middle class suburbs, it also is subsidizing market-rate housing units in poor St. Paul neighborhoods in hopes of bringing socio-economic balance there.
Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland of Apple Valley, head of an advisory group that filters each year’s requests for money, described a long-delayed project in the Swede Hollow area near downtown St. Paul as an effort to plant unsubsidized housing into an “area of concentrated poverty.”
The Met Council earlier this month approved $11.5 million worth of grants that seek to nudge the private market in directions it might not otherwise go because of high costs. Goals include high density near transit lines and mixing of incomes at a time when the council warns of a spread of concentrated poverty.
In Blaine, neighbors in the Woodland Village neighborhood, near the city’s new Lexington Athletic Complex, resisted attempts to add eight Habitat units close to $400,000 suburban homes.
Met Council members praised city officials in Blaine for standing behind the proposal, which is just one part of a wider effort across the metro: $186,000 to “facilitate the construction” of 40 new single family Habitat homes in cities, including Hugo and Prior Lake.
Susan Haigh, Met Council chair until the beginning of this year, is president and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
St. Paul stands out starkly on Met Council maps of spreading poverty, and at least a pair of grants were aimed at countering that with market-rate housing:
• The council gave $1 million in taxpayer dollars to help with costs associated with Raymond Flats, just off the Green Line light rail. The project both redevelops an existing building and adds a new building containing apartments: 119 in all.
• $975,000 will go to the Village on Rivoli project in St. Paul, in the Railroad Island neighborhood. The project includes a community solar garden, orchard, pedestrian and bike path, and shared community space. Public money will help prep the site and cover things like sidewalks and lighting.
Met Council member Richard Kramer told colleagues that a plan for that area was the first thing he voted on in 1994 as a new St. Paul planning commission member. “We have been working on it that long.”
• $600,000 will go to a project called “Selby-Milton-Victoria,” in St. Paul, for a project creating affordable commercial space for small, local and minority-owned businesses along with affordable senior housing.
Other east metro recipients include a West Side of St. Paul project adding 40 units of affordable rental attached to commercial space, which gets $400,000. Another $150,000 goes to Ivy Estates, in Forest Lake, “to facilitate construction of six affordable three-bedroom homes on a site that has sat undeveloped for nearly a decade.”