Two plans for high-density housing in Shakopee are advancing as Scott County looks to house more people in less space.
Preliminary requests for a 300-unit multifamily housing complex by Southbridge Crossings East got unanimous approval by City Council last month, and its developer, Sand Companies, now must submit another round of applications. On Wednesday, the developer MWF Properties secured a fee waiver to apply for a 57-unit workforce housing property next to Target on Marschall Road.
“Scott County is the fastest-growing county in the state and has been for some time,” said Bill Jaffa, executive director of the county’s Community Development Agency. “As a result, we’re rapidly using up our pad-ready sites,” or potential real estate property, “especially in Shakopee.” The CDA commissioned a study in 2011 that confirmed Shakopee’s growing renter population, and the Metropolitan Council has recommended more affordable housing.
Shakopee, already home to Shutterfly and Emerson, is making room for a second Amazon.com center this year that will create another 1,000 full-time jobs.
“The variety of jobs that are being created are everything from a lower-wage entry job to higher-end tech jobs,” Jaffa said. “Where are people going to come from to fill these jobs?”
Shakopee’s City Council is discussing potential sites for multifamily housing, as potential single-family lots dwindle and more residents move in. The city’s most recent market-rate housing complex is Addison Apartments, which was completed last year. The most recent affordable housing complex was the All Saints Senior Living facility in 2012.
Residents are also simply less interested in the demands of homeownership, or less equipped to make down payments on mortgages, according to senior planner Kyle Sobota. People want a “lower-maintenance lifestyle,” Sobota said. “Not as many people are looking for single-family houses, even if they can afford one.”
A common misconception, according to city planners and developers, is that all high-density housing is subsidized by taxpayers — causing friction among council members and criticism by homeowners.
Eligible residents for the MWF Properties complex must earn between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income.
Council Member Jay Whiting said the city has “a lot of people that would need and use” affordable housing, while Mayor Bill Mars criticized the Metropolitan Council’s fees for prospective developers. Council Member Matt Lehman said he’s a mortgage holder and “not sure I want to be paying for somebody else’s home.”
Neighboring communities have successfully launched workforce housing developments, including the 66-unit Village Commons that opened in Savage in 2013.
For Peter Harmon, a chiropractor, the lower-rent opportunity arose at the right time. His co-owned practice had folded, so his family of five applied. He and his wife, Katy, a stay-at-home mom, moved in and saved up, and Harmon opened his own practice in St. Paul last March. “That’s really helped us get on our feet and get moving,” he said. “Living there just really helped us to utilize the money that we did have,” and bought him time to build a business.
The closer quarters, Harmon said, connected his family with neighbors of different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.“I get to learn a lot of customs and a how a lot of different people live … It breaks down barriers,” he said.
Jaffa said: “The [housing] issue itself is almost like a perfect circle. There’s no beginning, and there’s no end.”