Caty Royce, long an advocate for low-income tenants in St. Paul, will help "suburbs market their diversity as a strength."
For 16 years, Caty Royce has been a champion for low-income and minority renters in the fight for affordable housing in St. Paul.
At the end of the month, she's leaving her director's position at the Community Stabilization Project on Selby Avenue to start a new job in Minneapolis studying segregation and advocating for racially and economically mixed communities.
"I want to get a significant conversation going on integration, especially as we brown," she said.
To do that, she's taking a post with Fund for an OPEN Society, a national nonprofit that promotes racially and ethnically integrated communities. She will have office space at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Race and Poverty.
Royce, 48, will focus on the first-ring suburbs and how they deal with demographic and economic changes. "I want to help suburbs market their diversity as a strength," she said.
Minority growth is tapering off in the largely urban Ramsey and Hennepin counties, which saw 15 percent growth in minority numbers from 2000 to 2006, or an extra 52,000 people. But there was 77 percent growth in five suburban counties -- Dakota, Washington, Anoka, Scott and Carver. Those five collectively saw growth of 63,000 people.
Racial issues are always implicit in affordable housing, Royce said, and now she's ready to tackle racial integration head-on.
Julia Grantham, board president of the Community Stabilization Project (CSP), said the nonprofit will miss Royce's passion and her ability to organize people and raise money. "She has been the backbone of CSP for years," Grantham said.
Royce, a New Yorker who moved to Edina during elementary school, has spent time in the Peace Corps and lived in Africa. She has a son, Brandon, 22, and a daughter, Aissatou, 7.
Royce has helped tenants stand up to developers and City Hall in many projects over the years, from the East Side of St. Paul to downtown to Brooklyn Park. She has been called confrontational and stubborn, but few question her commitment.
"I have always appreciated Caty's role, not that I always agreed with it," said Council President Kathy Lantry. "You really have to respect that she had a clear idea how to best represent those who, quite frankly, do not have a loud voice."
Royce believes the Community Stabilization Project will play an important role in the next 10 years -- not just in how St. Paul deals with foreclosures and vacant houses from the recent mortgage crisis, but as the $1 billion Central Corridor light-rail line gets built along University Avenue and changes the face of the neighborhoods surrounding it.
"If CSP was not around," she said, "we'd be in big trouble."
Royce is most proud to have worked with "stellar community members" who have committed their time to help tenants in St. Paul.
"She's been unwavering in her pursuit to seek justice for low income and people of color, and I just think it's going to be a heck of a void to fill," said Nathaniel Khaliq, president of the St. Paul NAACP.
Chris Havens 651-298-1542