Lyndale Ave and 76th St

So back to writing about the developments on 76th/Pleasant and 76th/Lyndale. It will be interesting what the developers will have to offer as far as “Green Housing” practices, that is what are the materials the development is made of, what kind of energy conservation and usage does it have, etc… Some can add on to the cost of the development, but can the developers or the city get grants to defray the costs? One developer did mention it during the community meeting but unfortunately it was quickly passed over.

aka: Artist Housing

One of the issues of the 76th Street Developments is “What kind of affordable housing?” There are many kinds. At the meetings the developers and city staff quickly went to the old favorite, “more senior housing” option. While housing for seniors needed in the metro area, it appears to be unevenly distributed with Richfield having far more than its far share not only serving its own seniors but the seniors of other communities as well. A better option is to develop affordable housing for young professionals which has never been considered an option in development in Richfield. Whereas not much growth occurs after the development of senior housing, neighborhood development typically follows within three years of the completion of an artists’ live/work project. This development in turn helps generate other cultural activity and creates a general increase in visitors to the area.

One of the problems is location, would artists really be interested in locating to Richfield? A Washington Post article “Giving Artiest Space to Create” writes about that issue with a work/live artist housing development, the “Douglass Street project” in the Washington DC area.

The biggest downside of the Douglass Street project is its location. While Mather Studios is in the heart of downtown, the Douglass Street project is in Northeast, near New York Avenue.

According to Corbett, that has not deterred artists from trying for the work-live spaces. “The bottom line for artists is about affordability and functionality.” It’s often difficult to make those two factors work, Corbett said, so “generally artists are willing to compromise on location.” Her organization, she said, keeps an eye out for publicly owned property. “That’s the real difficulty in D.C. Unlike Baltimore, we just don’t have any kind of inventory of low-rent industrial space for artists.”

While developing artist housing in Richfield isn’t going to create a “great sucking sound” of artists leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul, there is a real viable need for artist housing in the south suburbs near accessible transportation. The site at 76st and Lyndale is the perfect location. Most people think of artist housing as big lofts in old warehouses, and for a time, when no one wanted old warehousing, that was the case Some time back in the 1980s warehouse space got sheik and artists got the boot out of Minneapolis’ Warehouse District and St. Paul’s Lowertown by developers looking to create “loft-style living” for those with big money to live the loft lifestyle. Only a lucky few artists today live in old warehouses mostly because of efforts of organizations like Artspace. While artist space is still being developed out of renovated old buildings, more and more artist housing that is being developed today is new housing, such as work/live housing on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis or the Hiawatha Artist Lofts in Seattle.

  • Richfield must position the area as attractive as possible to young professionals. Work/live spaces help fulfill this goal.
  • Richfield can be home to artists, priced out of trendy neighborhoods in search of a lower cost of living/workspace and higher quality of life.
  • Many artists support themselves with second jobs, many of those jobs are out in the suburbs. Higher gas prices lend to the appeal of living closer to work.

At the public meetings/workshops held by the city of Richfield and the Corridor Housing Initiative the words “affordable housing” were stressed again and again, and those words were met with suspicion by neighbors attending. Unspoken were fears of subsidized housing “Section 8” housing, prison and drug halfway houses, rental property packed with uncontrollable tenants that become a neighborhood blight and nuisance soon after it is built.

History of affordable housing

In truth, most of Richfield was subsidized back in the day, but back then no one looked at the VA loans and federally insured mortgage programs which reduced mortgage leaders risk as “government welfare” but they were and they worked. Richfield developed into a cute bedroom community with returning veterans being able to afford the thousands of new houses been built in spite of the large scale housing shortages that occurred during World War II.

Richfield is now an inner ring suburban taking on the traits and trends that once only effected its neighbor to the north, Minneapolis. One thing that hasn’t changed sadly is a lack of affordable housing. However, the general attitude to subsidized affordable housing has become more negative. It is probably most certainly in part to early public housing programs which dumped subsidized housing in one or two neighborhoods, creating instant slums, creating problems so deep no neighborhood or city could effectively deal with them. Planning, in part due to lawsuits preventing dumping, have changed how cities deal with housing.

Livable Communities Act

The Minnesota Legislature created Livable Communities Act. In that act local Twin City government had to come up with effective affordable housing goals for the upcoming decade and LCA provides funds to communities to assist in the carrying out of those plans.

This is a voluntary, incentive-based approach where the communities are offered carrots, such as funds for redevelopment of blighted sites, to create affordable housing.

While this may work well in general, it does have a few gaffs that I can see, one is that communities that may need the development the most get the most affordable housing, while not the dumping as with public housing projects in the past it still creates concentrations of poverty in some communities.

Because it is voluntary, affluent Twin City communities because of their wealth and little need for state money, can (and do) opt out or set very low affordable housing goals.

What is “Affordable”?

The Metro Council considers it “affordable” if it costs 30 percent or less of the total income of a family of “low or moderate income”. So if you create McMansions for multimillionaires you are still out of luck getting LCA funds.

So what is Low income in relation to affordable housing?
For home ownership the Metro Council defines it as housing that is affordable to buyers earning 80% of area median income — in 2007, a household earning this income could afford a home costing approximately $206,800.

For rental housing the Metro Council defines it as housing that is affordable to renters earning 50% of area median income — in 2007, a household earning this income could afford to pay $883 per month for rent and utilities for a two-bedroom unit.

So what does this mean for Richfield and the developments for 76th Street?

The developments seem to be guided by the City of Richfield’s attempts to meet the goal set for it in Livable Communities Act (757 owner units and 0 rental of which at 256 units built 33.8% progress to goal has been made)

It is hard to sort through the data and I am sure I am making a mess of it but it appears Richfield though not having met its goal, is doing well. The Metropolitan Council Housing Performance Score for Richfield was 77 out of 100 with 24.3% of this units affordable at 50% or less of Regional Family Income in 2000. However, this seems to be unequal between owner and rental affordability . Only 9.1% of owner housing units in Richfield are deemed affordable where as 55.7% of the rental units are deemed affordable. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a rental population in Richfield that needs to be helped, according to United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2000 over 1,600 were either spending over 30 percent of there income on housing or in conditions of over crowding in rental housing in Richfield.

Um, yeah, sure so?…

Richfield, does have an need for affordable housing to serve its own population, as do most communities and while most of its focus has gone into end-of-lifecycle housing resources little has been allocated elsewhere to singles or families with children.

It appears that the biggest problem is with owner housing and that there is a good deal of affordable rental housing in Richfield. However, according to the numbers that does not mean there is not a problem with affordable rental or no need to create it.


I have taken down my forum and have replaced it with this blog. The numbers showed that people were going to this site and viewing the forum but not participating, which I am not really surprised at. I decided it would be better would to blog and I can just post information, links, resources, as well as my ramblings related to the development going on at 76th Street, if viewers want to respond they comment on my postings otherwise happy reading.

A couple of resources to get going are:

Corridor Housing Initiative (CHI) web site featuring their work with Richfield (thus far)

As the City of Richfield describes it:

“The Corridor Housing Initiative (CHI) is a proactive
planning process to assist the planning, design,
and development along major corridors.”

Basically they are a process convened by the Center for Neighborhoods to go into neighborhoods and be some what of a mediator/coordinator between city, developers, and the neighborhood.

At worst, CHI may be bit of a dog and pony show if the city that sponsors it really has no intent to actually listen to the community and already has its preconceived notions on what would be good for the area and is using CHI simply as a tool to show that they had “citizen involvement”

At best, it really is a great way to get people to become involved in the discussion of what is developed in their neighborhood.

Whether it is successful at what it does depends on the extent the community, if they care enough to turn out for the process and of the agenda and experience of the city staff and politicians.