Letters: Minnesota can’t subsidize its way to enough affordable housing

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It’s time to shift from subsidies if we want more affordable housing

The recently announced delay to housing construction at the former Hillcrest Golf Course in St. Paul underscores a critical issue: We cannot subsidize our way to more affordable housing.

The Heights, a new mixed-use low-carbon community, was recently touted as an answer to Minnesota’s housing needs by its backers. This claim is far from accurate. Despite my enthusiasm and support for this project as a member of the City’s Planning Commission, it is clear that relying heavily on public subsidies is not a sustainable solution to affordable housing.

While projects like The Heights can occasionally proceed, they are far from addressing our broader housing needs. Instead, we need to implement zoning and building code changes, such as those at the state Legislature that failed to pass this year, and remove restrictive requirements such as parking mandates, large lot size minimums, and restrictive setbacks. Additionally, reducing the impact of increasing municipal fee burdens on new developments is essential.

The Heights project requires over $120 million in public subsidies (including $73 million from the state, $43 million from the city, and $2.5 million from the Port Authority) and its viability is contingent on funds that even a supportive DFL trifecta could not secure.

Funding projects like these is a complex, time-consuming and uncertain endeavor reliant on a number of other small public grants. For example: In addition to the above, The Heights has also received a variety of other public grants, including $7 million from the Port Jobs Bill, $670,000 in a remediation Grant, $2 million from DEED, $500,000 from the Met Council, and $800,000 from the EPA.

At full build-out, The Heights would deliver 900 new homes at a public subsidy of over $130,000 per unit. By contrast, changing zoning and building codes at the local and state levels could easily deliver more housing and economic development with zero public subsidy (and a windfall to public coffers).

While projects like The Heights are valuable on a small scale, they aren’t a way to address broad housing affordability in the city or in this state. It’s not possible to replicate it at any scale without municipalities going into bankruptcy. It’s time to shift our focus from subsidies to structural changes that facilitate development and address our housing crisis more effectively.

Nate Hood, St. Paul
The writer is a member of the St. Paul Zoning Committee and Planning Commission


Part of a larger problem

After WNBA player Chennedy Carter shoulder-checked Caitlin Clark, Carter’s teammate Angel Reese hugged and congratulated her. Clark didn’t have the ball — so it was a flagrant foul. But Chennedy wasn’t ejected from the game or suspended for following games.

The message to our youth: “Violence in sports is OK when you are older, even though we tell you as children and teenagers it is never OK to hurt someone just because you are angry.”

The WNBA, like male sports teams, takes a soft approach on violence. Carter’s coach said, “Chennedy was caught up in the heat of the moment.” Sports commentators said, “It’s life as a rookie in the WNBA.” And one even said, “Caitlin is getting pushed around. Good.”

The underlying message is, unwarranted violence in sports is to be expected, admired, and is OK. Being out of control is OK. You just have to be a pro.

Geoffrey Saign, St. Paul


Pride in St. Paul

Thank you to St. Paul, for hanging pride flags on the Wabasha Street bridge during June. Let’s celebrate that love is love and all are welcome here.

Beth Hvass, St. Paul


Sainted, Tainted

Sainted to ALL the graduates from our local and suburb areas. What a fine group of young women and men. You are our future.

Tainted to those at some of the graduation ceremonies who thought it was just their one and only with the incessant air horns that blasted well into others’ names being announced. No decorum or sense of shame for what you deemed to be your God-given right. I hope your graduate was totally embarrassed  Their future may bring some resolution to this practice.

Kathy Moore, West St. Paul

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