Officials in Carver County are asking the Metropolitan Council to rethink its method for distributing funds for affordable housing, saying it puts suburbs on the metro's outer fringe at a significant disadvantage.
Carver County commissioners this week approved a letter to Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck that says it's unfair for the state agency to focus its financial help for affordable housing on transit-oriented developments. As a result, the letter says, Carver County could be out of the running for funds because it lacks the kinds of fixed transitways it says the council wants near the housing projects.
"Carver County requests that the Metropolitan Council re-evaluate its strategies to support affordable housing development so that all communities can reasonably compete for scarce funds," the letter says.
At Tuesday's Carver County Board meeting, Chairman Randy Maluchnik described the council's methodology as "a thinly disguised plan to circumvent the suburbs and target all the money to the inner core."
The pushback is the latest sign of tension and a disconnect between the Met Council, a state-run body whose board members are appointed by the governor, and outer reaches of the metro area over the council's overall development plan, Thrive MSP 2040. A public comment period began this week on a draft amendment to the council's long-term housing policy that is part of Thrive. The feedback period runs until May 15, with the council set to consider a final version of the amendment in July.
Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said there's no language in the housing policy that states the council will focus funding for affordable housing in transit-oriented developments.
"The council encourages expanded affordable housing options across the seven-county region — in both areas served by transit as well as areas not served by transit," she said.
But Carver County's Community Development Agency also has concluded the council has a bias toward affordable housing near transit, according to a separate letter it is sending the council.
At the board meeting, CDA Economic Development Director John Sullivan said job creation, not access to public transit, drives the need for affordable housing.
"The first thing a [new] business asks me isn't 'How can I can get a train to the front of my company?' but, 'Where can I can get my people to live?' " Sullivan said. Carver and its neighbor, Scott County, are seeing a flood of jobs from new arrivals such as Shutterfly, Emerson Process Management, Datacard in Shakopee; Ridgeview Medical in Waconia, and Beckman Coulter, Park Dental and the Lakeview Clinic in Chaska. He noted that others are on the way, including Amazon, which is planning a facility in Shakopee that will have 1,000 employees.