Anticipation is high for completion of the Central Corridor Light Rail Line running between Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul, scheduled to open in 2014. While surrounding neighborhoods and local residents stand to benefit in many ways from this new transit access and the development it is likely to generate, there is also fear among local residents that escalating land values will lead to escalating rents. This could mean that many lower income residents will not benefit from this public investment but will instead be forced to leave.
While there is no way of knowing at this point if these negative effects will take place, or if they do, where along the Corridor that will happen, there is considerable evidence from elsewhere around the country of this kind of pattern along emerging transit corridors. According to the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, “in nearly three quarters of transit-rich neighborhoods studied nationally, rents increased faster than in other parts of the same metro area.” Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods (October 2010). Thus it seems prudent to plan for the effects of gentrification, just in case.
The first step in considering possible strategies to minimize displacement of lower income renters is to understand the existing rental housing supply. When HPP discovered that very little information existed about the large supply of currently affordable rental housing along Central Corridor, we worked with partner organizations to obtain funding from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative to produce a rental housing inventory/database. HPP has now issued a report based upon this database/inventory, “Before the Train,” which can be accessed here.