A controversial cluster of Habitat for Humanity homes in Blaine is among the recipients of the latest round of Metropolitan Council subsidies for development projects across the metro area.
But as the Met Council seeks to plant affordable homes in suburbs, it also is subsidizing market-rate housing in poor St. Paul neighborhoods in hopes of bringing some socio-economic balance there.
Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland of Apple Valley, head of an advisory group that filters each year's requests for money, described a long-delayed project in Swede Hollow near downtown St. Paul as an effort to embed unsubsidized housing into an "area of concentrated poverty."
The Met Council in December approved $11.5 million in grants that seek to nudge the private market in directions it might not otherwise go because of high costs. Goals include high density near transit lines and mixing of incomes.
In Blaine, neighbors in the Woodland Village neighborhood, near the city's new Lexington Athletic Complex, resisted attempts to add eight Habitat units close to $400,000 suburban homes.
Met Council members praised Blaine city officials for standing behind the proposal, part of a wider effort across the metro area: $186,000 to facilitate construction of 40 new single-family Habitat houses in cities including Hugo and Prior Lake.
Susan Haigh, who has stepped down as Met Council chair, is president and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
Several grants target St. Paul
St. Paul stands out starkly on Met Council maps of spreading poverty, and at least two grants were aimed at countering that with market-rate housing:
• The council gave $1 million in taxpayer dollars to help with costs associated with Raymond Flats, just off the Green Line light rail. The project both redevelops an existing building and adds a new building containing apartments, 119 in all.
• $975,000 will go to the Village on Rivoli project, in the Railroad Island neighborhood.
Met Council Member Richard Kramer told colleagues that a plan for that area was the first thing he voted on in 1994 as a new St. Paul planning commission member. "We have been working on it that long."
• $600,000 will go to a project called Selby-Milton-Victoria for a project creating affordable commercial space for small, local and minority-owned businesses along with affordable senior housing.
Another east metro recipient is a St. Paul West Side project adding 40 units of affordable rentals attached to commercial space, which gets $400,000.
And another $150,000 goes to Ivy Estates, in Forest Lake, "to facilitate construction of six affordable three-bedroom homes on a site that has sat undeveloped for nearly a decade."