Housing (build it and they will come)

The 5 year Housing and Service Plan recommends 10 more shelter beds for homeless youth, 250 more units of transitional housing and 650 more permanent housing units for the physically disabled, mentally ill and chemically dependent. Other parts of the plan recommend financial approaches to building affordable housing. Although the plan is suppose to be all-inclusive; i.e., municipalities throughout all of Ramsey County, it has been viewed primarily as a Ramsey County/St. Paul plan. According to Jim Anderson, Community Human Services (CHS) planning specialist, such a plan is needed to stabilize living conditions for low-income families. An income of $33,000 a year (about $16 an hour) is needed to buy a typical 3-bedroom home. On April 14, when asked by Pioneer Press reporter Karl Karlson "why the county should be involved in housing," Anderson replied, "finding the homeless or those in transition places to live makes it less expensive to provide social services to them." At the April 6 Board meeting, the Commissioners voted to delay action on the 5 Year Housing and Service Plan. Commissioner Rettman stated that "it appears as a county/city plan. How do we involve the other municipalities from within the County?" Jim Anderson reported that a mailing list of over 600 were contacted, including elected officials, and only one municipality responded, and that response was in favor of the plan. Janice continued and suggested that we go through the 22 recommendations and then send the plan out to all of the municipalities. The Commissioners agreed that without other municipality involvement there is the danger of continuation of poverty clusters. Chair Ortega said, "I want to make sure that not just the concept is voted on; but, that the concentration of poverty is not added to the City." Commissioner Wiessner said, "it should be recognized that five of the Commissioners were not in office when the study was initiated." Her concern is that no suburban cities had been involved in the planning process. "Trying to get commitment after the fact is much more difficult than up front." Commissioner Haigh hopes that when the discussion is held, the 'apples and oranges' are not mixed. Commissioner Guerin, referring to the 800 units of transitional housing said, "I would like to know how this is going to be addressed as a regional issue." Commissioner Reinhardt said, "there are a number of recommendations that can be agreed on, some are easier to deal with and some consensus can be made on the others." On April 13, 1999, Janice hoped to go through the 22 points and to form a consensus. The Board did not take this approach and voted 5-2 to accept the plan. Those for, argued that it is a starting point. Commissioner Reinhardt agreed with Councilperson Lantry of the City of St. Paul, "it is a framework." Janice and Commissioner Guerin dissented. Janice said, "the municipalities see this as a City and County plan. Without any say in the original, they will not become participants. The plan brings fear that if they participate, their communities will become low-income clusters. We need a mix of housing throughout the County. I believe citizens will remain in St. Paul if they have a range of choices. Unfortunately, the housing market is such that there is little to no choice for those that want to stay." And so housing questions (22 of them) remain. It's doubtful the plan will resolve them without all municipalities coming on board. That's a dream possibly greater than "Field of Dreams."

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