Goal: Focus on high quality workforce housing developments with integrated ownership.
Comments: The best was saved for last. Many of you might not have read much about this in other media or heard it reported on television or radio, but this was one of the top story lines of 2010. For those of us that want progressive policies that help neighborhoods and improve lives; this was a home run. Contrary to the beliefs of some paid lobbyists, cheap housing is NOT affordable housing.
This did not happen all at once, nor where there any big media stories, but a shift occurred at the city, in planning, and on the council. No longer is the city a rubber stamp for bad development. We will never see another future ghetto build on the taxpayer dime.
No one decision better reflected the new direction of the city than when Joe Weis’ request for TIF for Washington Village East was not only denied, but denied 7-0. The proposal was poor and not in the interest of the community. There were a number of flaws with the proposal. First and foremost the proposal called for 100% low income housing after previously promising a mixed income project. This was on top of an area which already has an overabundance of low income housing. Both Mark Bilderback and Sandra Means spoke strongly about avoiding concentrations of poverty. Even Dennis Hanson, former leader of the Rochester Area Builders Association, voted against this poor proposal. The council is committed to creating criteria to receive TIF, incentive development points, zoning changes, and variances. Even though administration has not done anything to pursue this yet, we will not let it die.
A second key development is ongoing at the Olmsted County HRA. For a long time, letters of cooperation (which carry with it points in state evaluation processes), were freely given out. Now that is being reconsidered. I am working with community leaders to draft minimum standards or guidelines that development must meet before a developer can get a letter or other benefits. These standards include a quality structure, transit and walk oriented location, and a mix of uses and income levels. All of these items will serve to decrease housing related poverty and thereby crime as well.
Another big win comes from the hard work of the Rochester Area Foundation and the Kutzky Park Neighbors. Using no tools that were not available for other developments, the Cascade Creek Redevelopment was born. It is now under construction. This project replaces 11 mostly blighted homes. In their place will be 40 affordable apartments, 5 privately owned town homes, a daycare center, and 2500 sq. ft. of commercial space. This project also includes green space and quality construction and exterior materials. The developer worked with neighbors and had little opposition. The project is mixed income, mixed use, high quality, integrates into the neighborhood, offers a mix of ownership and rental properties, is walkable, and is transit oriented. This is important because the next time a developer tells us that this can not be done, we have proof that it can. The excuses for poor development have been disproven once and for all.
This has been a huge success and there is more to come.