A recent article regarding the Fort Snelling Upper Post chose to prioritize clickbait online headlines (“Legislature pushes Fort Snelling affordable housing, at $600K per unit,” May 25) over the nuanced details of an incredibly complicated topic. This was a disservice to the Star Tribune’s readers and to public understanding of housing policy in Minnesota.
The reality is that this project meets two vital obligations of state government: the preservation of Minnesota history and the creation of affordable housing, and does so by leveraging federal tax credits available only for preserving historic buildings.
The Fort Snelling Upper Post is a unique part of Minnesota history that currently sits empty and ignored. The barracks and buildings once housed the all-African-American Buffalo Soldier units and were the site of a World War II Japanese intelligence and language school. The state of Minnesota is legally obligated to preserve these buildings and currently spends more than $2 million a year to do so, while the buildings remain empty and unproductive.
The article conflates the cost of transforming the 26 historic buildings into 176 units of affordable housing for veterans with the median cost of a single-family home in Minneapolis. This is comparing apples to oranges; the truth is that the cost of the housing component of this project is on par with other affordable housing developments. The increased cost of this project comes from rehabilitating the historic buildings, and the proposal utilizes Historic Preservation Tax Credits to do so.
Additionally, this project will help create good-paying construction jobs and help provide more homes for hardworking Minnesotans who face skyrocketing rents. Experience shows that rehabilitating previously ignored historic sites like the Pillsbury A-Mill and Schmidt Brewery has helped to transform neighborhoods and create economic and cultural vitality.
This project preserves Minnesota’s history while creating affordable housing for Minnesota’s veterans. It is the right plan and deserves the support of those who believe our history is important.
Adam Duininck is director of government affairs, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, and former chair of the Metropolitan Council.