Affordable housing

Earlier this year, Ramsey County Commissioner Susan Haigh proposed using county money, rather than city funds, to help relieve the severe affordable housing shortage in St. Paul. The plan received some criticism, however, as taxes would have to be raised to support it, likely limiting its support among city dwellers and commissioners alike. Though raising taxes to alleviate the housing crisis may be necessary and deserves serious consideration, a different plan proposed by three board members last week will have a stronger impact and will be easier to pass, as taxpayers will not see higher rates.
Sponsored by Board President Rafael Ortega and Commissioners Tony Bennett and Janice Rettman, the proposal would allot $10 million to help the county’s 19 municipalities build new housing complexes. About half of the money would come from the sale of undeveloped county-owned land, like 80 acres in Maplewood where a county golf course has also been proposed. The rest of the revenue for this project comes from private sources and philanthropic organizations such as the McKnight Foundation.
In support of his plan, Ortega predicted that the fund would help to build 600 to 2,500 new housing units during the next 30 years, The prediction assumes each unit received between $10,000 and $40,000. Estimated at $500,000 per year, the fund’s interest alone could help the county’s housing shortage tremendously.
As the money is not coming from the taxpayers, but from the county and private sources, there is no reason why the Ramsey County commission should not pass this much-needed proposal. The county does not need a new golf course, but it’s citizens do need available affordable housing.