Met Council Establishes Two Sets of Housing Goals for Cities Starting in 2011

As discussed elsewhere on this website, Minnesota law is probably unique in imposing on the Met Council the obligation under two different statutes to negotiate affordable housing goals with metro area cities.  Because the goal setting process under these two laws occurs at different times, it creates some awkwardness in reconciling the two sets of goals.  The latest example of this occurred in late 2010 when the Met Council adopted new Livable Communities Act (LCA) goals.

By way of background, 2010 was the year in which the goal setting process under the Metropolitan Land Use Planning Act (LUPA), first initiated in 2008, was completed.  Under the LUPA process, each metro local government was required to update their comprehensive plans, a once every decade duty.  As part of that process, cities were required to plan for their share of the regional and local need for affordable housing, pursuant to guidelines established by the Met Council.  Based on negotiations with the Met Council, each local government adopted a goal, to be met during the period 2011-2020, for a specific number of affordable housing units, and then committed to setting aside sufficient land, as well as adopting an implementation plan, in order to realize that goal.  

By happenstance, the original 15 year LCA affordable housing goal period (1995-2010) was expiring at the same time the last cities were completing their comp plan updates, and planning for their LUPA housing goals.  LCA requires the Met Council to also negotiate affordable housing goals with cities, only in this case it does so in order to establish local government eligibility to compete for various categories of funding under the LCA.  

Since both laws require cities to plan for the same thing, one logical approach for the Met Council would have been simply to adopt the just finished LUPA goals as the new LCA goals.  The Met Council, however, chose a different approach, meaning that once again, cities are operating under two different sets of goals to achieve the same thing.  

In the view of Met Council staff, the recently completed LUPA goal setting process may have established unrealistically high goals for too many cities.  According to Met Council staff, a number of city officials had complained that LUPA goals were not likely to be obtainable given the shortage of financial resources likely to be available over the next decade to fund affordable housing development (although in each case the city did commit to the LUPA goal).   Given that LCA is a voluntary program, the Met Council reasoned, establishing goals that were too onerous could cause cities to opt out of the LCA program altogether—a result to be avoided.

As a result, the Met Council adopted the approach of asking cities to commit to LCA goals that amounted to a percentage of the goals each city had just adopted under LUPA.  For most cities, this means a goal equal to 65% of the LUPA goal (expressed as a range of between 100% and 65% of LUPA).  The bar was set higher for a few jurisdictions—Minneapolis, St. Paul, Dakota County cities—on the theory that those jurisdictions had more financial resources available to them than most cities.

Following negotiations with local governments, the Met Council formally adopted this new approach on December 6, 2010.  As of that date, 92 metro area local governments had committed to the new LCA goals.  See here for each city's new LCA goal.

Some organizations, including this one, criticized the Met Council approach.  See, commentary by Tim Thompson of HPP, in Star Tribune.  Beyond the criticisms leveled in the commentary about undercutting the just completed LUPA goals, it is also worth noting how far these statutory goal setting processes are becoming removed from the reality of the actual need for affordable housing in the region.  When the Met Council created its formula for determining each jurisdiction’s share of the regional need for LUPA 2011-2020 goals, it started with a greatly circumscribed definition of need—setting aside the current unmet need (170,000 units), the Council based its regional total goal solely on the units needed for expected new households (50,000 units).  Now, for LCA goals, that number has been whittled down further to 70% of the LUPA regional collective goal.  Finally, we should remind ourselves that these targets were established prior to the current recession, in which the unmet need has ballooned further.  The need for affordable housing and our collective commitment to meeting those needs seem to be veering in the opposite directions.

Housing Preservation Project, 2011
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