Local governments play a key role in affordable housing development; they can block it altogether through exclusionary zoning or other practices; they can delay or discourage such developments or make them smaller or less affordable; or they can proactively facilitate and encourage affordable housing development through employment of a range of affordable housing strategies, investments and policies. The Minnesota legislature has recognized the need for regional oversight of local government affordable housing practices by enacting two different laws, the Metropolitan land Use Planning Act and the Livable Communities Act. Both statutes direct the Metropolitan Council to oversee local government practices and to negotiate affordable housing goals for each local government in the region.
For over a decade, HPP has advocated for the Met Council to take a stronger role in leading local municipalities’ affordable housing efforts. Now there appears to be the opportunity to make more progress on this goal than has been the case in many years. Members of the current Met Council have expressed a desire to see the Council take stronger action on affordable housing. Chair Sue Haigh of the Met Council has decided the Council will adopt the first Regional Housing Policy Plan in thirty years. So the time is ripe for new policy ideas.
For the last year HPP has regularly convened a group of advocates and representatives of community organizations to forge a list of recommended actions for the Met Council to take. One of the major themes of these recommendations are that the Council can lead cities to more effective affordable housing policies, including encouraging greater local government innovation, in two ways. One way is by making greater use of the Council’s legal authorities. The coalition has identified several actions the Council could take within their existing legal authorities which would effectively raise the bar on expectations for local governments. A second way to exercise more sway is by making more effective use of the leverage the Council has with its funding decisions. By factoring affordable housing performance into local government applications for various funding programs, the Council can significantly motivate cities to ramp up their affordable housing efforts. To see the Coalition’s list of affordable housing recommendations, click here.
The Met Council has just commenced a year-long effort to write a new Regional Housing Policy Plan, through the creation of Housing Policy Plan Advisory Committee (of which HPP is a member). The Coalition’s ideas on strengthening Met Council and local government policies will be part of the mix of ideas this group considers over the next year.