In his March 5 article, MinnPost’s Peter Callaghan previews a report, prepared by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, that examines segregated living patterns in the Twin Cities. The report, entitled “Why Are the Twin Cities So Segregated?” [PDF], compares patterns here with those in Denver and Portland and concludes that our area is considerably more segregated than the metropolitan regions encompassing those two western cities.
The institute’s director, Myron Orfield, the report’s lead author, places the blame for the Twin Cities poor showing, at least in part, on public policies which he says concentrate affordable housing in the region’s central cities and certain first ring suburbs
Orfield calls for a more sustained effort to disperse affordable housing throughout the metropolitan region. As an association of nonprofit organizations, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers is in full agreement with him on the need for more affordable housing in the suburbs. However, we part company with him when he objects to the placement of these developments in our inner-city neighborhoods.
Revitalizing challenged neighborhoods
Over the years, affordable housing has been stigmatized by the image of massive deteriorating public housing blocks. But our members are not building that type of housing. Their architecturally enhanced low-rise buildings look no different from nearby market-rate developments. They provide work-force housing for a mix of incomes on sites that have easy access to public transportation, employment and community services. Most important, they help revitalize challenged neighborhoods by replacing blighted properties with attractive, well-designed housing that helps build confidence in the neighborhoods in which they are located.
Hope Community’s South Quarter Development is a good case in point. This 20-year-long effort has transformed an abandoned intersection that once cast a shadow of blight and crime over the surrounding neighborhood. Today, the South Quarter provides a welcoming gateway to the Phillips community. The final phase of the South Quarter is now under construction on the northwest corner of Franklin and Portland. Known as the Rose, it will provide 90 units of mixed-income housing just minutes away from downtown Minneapolis, this region’s major employment center.
Needless conflict over suburbs, core cities
Across town, in North Minneapolis, the West Broadway Crescent will provide 54 units of mixed-income housing for families with incomes up to 60 percent of area median. This work-force development is just a few blocks away from another key jobs site, North Memorial Hospital. West Broadway Crescent will not lead to a concentration of poverty in North Minneapolis. Rather, it will attract families with diverse incomes to the Near North Community. This work-force development will bring new residents with incomes in the $40,000 to $50,000 range to a community where the median income is now $32,000 a year.
For too long, a controversy has raged in the Twin Cities, pitting the housing needs of the central cities against those in the region’s outlying communities. But there need not be a conflict between the development of affordable housing in the suburbs and the placement of those projects in our core neighborhoods. We can and should provide both. In fact, we need a balanced approach to affordable housing that maximizes housing opportunities throughout our seven-county region. That balanced approach represents the best way forward for this metropolitan region.
Jim Roth is the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers.
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