The Roseville area chapter of the League of Women Voters is urging elected officials in the northeast suburbs to “change the narrative” in a quest for expanded affordable housing.
A pitch last week to the Roseville City Council caused a few sparks to fly. But the League was praised for furnishing facts and prompting discussion at a key moment as cities across the metro area craft 10-year plans that may influence the course of affordable housing in the next decade.
Roseville’s mayor and city manager both pushed back on suggestions that the city may be violating housing laws in the way it is going about seeking to keep its rental properties crime-free.
And City Council Member Tammy McGehee stressed that she doesn’t see the answer in high-density projects with affordable units.
“There’s no reason a person without the income of a North Oaks or Sunfish Lake still wouldn’t like a little green space, a tiny home of their own on a piece of land. We don’t need to inflict density,” she said.
League member Bonnie Koch said that the League of Women Voters doesn’t seek to dictate the proper answers as much as to create awareness.
“We found that it’s a huge topic in these cities,” she said, but one that’s spiked with resistance — a problem that cities could do a lot to help solve, including by ensuring that residents don’t feel ambushed suddenly by big housing projects they knew nothing about.
The Roseville area chapter of the league covers a cluster of Ramsey County suburbs, not just Roseville but Maplewood, Little Canada, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. Those places are “changing dramatically,” a League report says, with a doubling in the number of students for whom English is not their native language.
Aided by three University of Minnesota graduate students, League members found that the five suburbs range from some of the best to some of the worst numbers in suburban Ramsey County when it comes to affordability.
On a scale of zero to 100, Roseville (84) and Maplewood (82) have the two highest scores, based on a Metropolitan Council scoring system that rates “how well communities are maintaining or expanding and promoting affordable housing supplies and if transit is accessible.”
But Falcon Heights (40), Lauderdale (34) and Little Canada (25) have the three lowest ratings.
Koch praised Roseville for its work in ensuring that the Sienna Green apartment complex, between the Rosedale and Har Mar Mall shopping centers, was upgraded and preserved as affordable housing.
Mayor Dan Roe and City Manager Patrick Trudgeon said they do not believe, contrary to what the League suggested, that the city’s current approach to rental properties risks running afoul of fair housing laws by netting as potential evictees anyone with any police calls, including victims.
But Trudgeon did say that it’s likely worth revisiting the language used.
“We don’t want to disincentivize people from calling the police,” he said. “There is probably better language that could be inserted.”
Roe said he agrees with the League that the city should explore ways of bringing citizens into the mix early when potentially controversial projects are proposed.
“When we’ve had open houses for neighbors in the past, “ he said, “the number of people saying they never heard about it went way, way down.”