Cities plan for future housing goals while lagging on current ones

Twin Cities local governments have to concern themselves these days with two sets of affordable housing goals:  future goals to be covered by their 2008 comprehensive plans for the period 2011-2020, and current goals negotiated under the Livable Communities Act (LCA) to cover 1995-2010.  This is a critical time to get effective housing plans in place for the upcoming decade, but it's also important to pay attention to how cities are doing on current goals.  If cities cannot meet current goals, then how likely is it they will meet the future benchmarks?

There is a problem for many cities.  A comparison of progress on LCA goals to date, as set out in the Met Council's Report to the Legislature on Affordable and Life-Cycle Housing (December 2006), with the Council's February 2007 charts converting LCA goals into new units to be produced, illustrates wildly uneven success in meeting these critical goals.

LCA Affordable Unit Goals

LCA goals were negotiated in 1995 between participating metro area cities and the Met Council.  In return for the chance to compete for several Council administered community development funds, cities agreed to use their best efforts to meet goals for both affordable rental and affordable for sale units.  Unlike future goals now being planned for pursuant to the Metropolitan Land Use Planning Act (MLUPA), these goals were not based upon a community's share of the regional need for low cost housing, but instead were based on achieving a distribution of housing within the city that was comparable to other communities in the same part of the region.  Thus, cities typically negotiated production goals that would allow their community to achieve a certain share of their housing as for- sale housing (60%, for example), or that a certain percentage of their rental housing would be affordable (to households at 60% of area median income).  Since that time, almost all cities in the metro area have joined LCA, and negotiated housing goals.  Many have obtained sizeable LCA grants to foster various kinds of development. 

Progress To Date

The most recent Met Council data on progress on LCA goals, from February 2007, covers new production between 1996-2005.  That covers 10 of the 15 year LCA goal period, and therefore to be on schedule, a city should have achieved 67% of its goals by now.  While the LCA goals were formulated as percentages of the housing supply, the Met Council has translated those goals into housing units, for the purpose of measuring progress.  Total regional production of affordable housing to date, looks like this:   

Affordable Owner units

33,198 produced out of goal of 89,072

   37% of goal

Affordable Rental units          

8,385 produced out of goal of 16,770

   50% of goal

See a summary table comparing all cities progress, compared to future goals, here.  The region as a whole is clearly significantly behind schedule.   But the situation is actually much worse than the table indicates.  Looking at total regional production numbers obscures the fact that much of the production was by cities that had no goals.  For example, Minneapolis had an affordable rental goal of 0, yet the city has produced 2368 affordable rental units that appear in the regional totals.  Including these units obscures the degree to other cities have failed to make good progress.  The Council's December 2006 "Report to the Minnesota Legislature on Affordable and Life-Cycle Housing" fails to address this issue and thus presents a far too optimistic picture of progress.

The Council's February 2007 report also indicates the balance yet to be produced by communities which did adopt production goals:

Affordable Owner units

   57,922 balance on goal of 89,072

 

     35% of goal met

Affordable Rental units

   12,172 balance on goal of 16,770

 

     27% of goal met

So collectively, the communities which adopted goals requiring additions to the supply of affordable housing are far behind schedule, with only three years now remaining.  It is obvious that these communities will have to do things much differently if they are to produce their fair share of needed affordable housing in the 2011-2020 decade.  This will require both acquisition of the political will to actually perform on their obligations as well as adoption of a new set of policies and strategies.

County Comparisons

While individual counties do not have LCA goals, the Council's February 2007 report sums up performance to date for all of the cities with goals in each county, providing the following geographic perspective:

COUNTY by COUNTY PROGRESS TOWARD LCA GOALS THROUGH 2005

 

Ownership

Balance

Percent

Rental

Balance

Percent

County

Goals

Remaining

Progress

Goals

Remaining

Progress

Anoka

10,693

6,292

41%

1,908

1,475

23%

Carver

5,804

3,169

45%

1,044

853

18%

Dakota

20,107

12,441

38%

3,311

2,163

35%

Hennepin

23,292

16,901

27%

3,995

2,729

32%

Ramsey

4,464

2,770

38%

1,499

495

67%

Scott

11,122

7,009

37%

2,741

2,439

11%

Washington

13,590

9,340

31%

2,272

2,018

11%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generally speaking, the cities in all metropolitan counties are behind schedule.  Only Ramsey County cities are close to on schedule, and then only for rental units. 

Some cities are doing well.

It is possible to meet the LCA goals, as some cities have demonstrated.  Eagan has already produced 240 rental units although its goal was 222, Stillwater has produced 184 of 204 rental units, Eden Prairie 270 of 330, and Inver Grove Heights 266 of 380, all well ahead of schedule.  Other cities have exceeded goals or produced substantial numbers despite having no goals :  South St Paul has produced 160 units with a goal of 0, Minneapolis 2368 units with a goal of 0, St. Paul 1021 units with a goal of 869, Burnsville 174 units with a goal of 0, Mendota Heights 139 units with a goal of 53.

Some cities have very far to go.

Some cities have significant rental goals and have produced 0 to date :  Forest Lake (282), Hugo (259), Jordan (408), Elko New Market (176).  A sample of others with much left to do :  Blaine 134 completed of 841, Farmington 76 of 666, Rosemount 44 of 351, Plymouth 165 of 600, Maple Grove 215 of 876, Shakopee 93 of 619, Woodbury 65 of 1191.

More can, and must, be done with current resources

At the current rate, production will fall well short of collective LCA goals.  This is likely due to multiple factors, some within the control of cities, some not.  The 2006 CURA survey of local officials is instructive.  As obstacles to affordable housing, local officials cited land costs, lack of available land zoned for multifamily, and lot-size requirements, most frequently.  Land costs are beyond cities' control, but zoning land for multifamily and lot size requirements are completely within the control of the locality.  As another example, a mechanism that was ranked as very effective by a large percentage of officials who had used it, was a set-aside for affordable housing, or an inclusionary zoning program.  However, according to the survey only twelve per cent of communities had tried such an approach.

We know some cities have been able to meet their goals so they are not impossible.  We also know that some of the major obstacles cited by cities are within their control, and that some promising tools to achieve goals have been underutilized.  More funding is needed, but cities can also do much more with what they have.  What is required is political will and aggressive adoption of policies necessary to make affordable housing programs work  (see Potential Solutions).



Housing Preservation Project, 2007
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