Eden Prairie families that rely the most on affordable housing say they are being squeezed out of the suburb.
The wealthy west metro city is, like many other suburbs, grappling with a lack of affordable housing. But unlike cities where the problem has been affordable housing converted into luxury apartments, Somali families say that Eden Prairie’s shortage is due to landlords refusing Section 8 vouchers.
The issue has spurred a community forum Thursday that’s expected to draw more than 200 residents and city, county and state leaders. The event, organized by Catholic and Jewish faith leaders, service organizations and affordable housing advocates, aims to press city leaders to maintain the affordable housing already there, add more units and protect tenants.
The city’s last affordable rental units were built in 2004.
“Basically it’s kicking out all low-income people from the city,” said Asad Aliweyd, a community leader. “We’re asking the city to look at the problems we’re facing.”
He estimated that a third of the East African community has left Eden Prairie in the last four years, after nine apartment buildings stopped accepting Section 8 vouchers. The vouchers subsidize rent for low-income families.
City leaders say they can’t force landlords to accept vouchers and that the hot rental market and rising demand is driving landlords to market-rate housing. They say they are trying to preserve affordable housing.
“We actually do a lot,” said Molly Koivumaki, the city’s housing and community services manager. “Rental control is something we legally don’t have a tool for.”
Eden Prairie is encouraging development near the proposed route for the Southwest light-rail line from Minneapolis, and considering an inclusionary housing policy such as that adopted by cities like St. Louis Park.
“This is a crisis that the region and Hennepin County is experiencing ... and a growing trend among rental companies not taking Section 8,” said Russ Adams, executive director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability.
The East African community, Adams said, doesn’t “feel welcome in Eden Prairie anymore. At some point they did.”