Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing

Edina is not alone in its challenges to enable affordable housing for those who work in and enrich our community.  The Met Council has set affordable housing objectives for Edina and all metropolitan cities.  It is difficult for teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, retail salespeople, and others to find affordable housing in Edina. High property values exacerbate Edina’s challenges.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for a developer of new construction to be able to pay for Edina real estate,  build to Edina’s standards, and create a profitable housing project.

The Number of Affordable Homes is Decreasing

Edina’s naturally-occurring affordable housing, especially in the form of bungalows, is slowly disappearing as properties are rebuilt or  replaced by more expensive homes.  It’s a paradox: people want to invest in Edina, but that sends housing costs upward.

The Free Market and Development

The City can’t stop property owners from doing what they choose to maximize their property value as long as they conform to City regulations and zoning. I think it is neither practical nor wise to attempt to put a moratorium on redevelopment.  As long as property owners comply with City standards, they should be able to do as they please with their property.

Edina’s Affordable Housing Policy

A few years ago, Edina adopted its first affordable housing policy. I believe this policy, though flawed, is an essential first step.  The City’s policy currently puts most of the burden of addressing affordable housing on one segment of developers.  Those who want to build multi-family housing projects of 20 or more units are required to set aside 10% of their units for affordable housing.

I see three significant problems related to affordable housing in Edina:

  • The affordable housing policy has a set-aside with a sunset after 15 years. We need affordable housing now, and we will undoubtedly have an even greater demand in 15 years.  The expiration of the affordable requirement sets up the City for more significant problems down the road.
  • Market forces are causing a reduction of affordable houses in our single family residence neighborhoods. The loss of smaller homes is creating a concentration of affordable housing in a few parts of Edina. I believe it is important to have different types of affordable housing spread throughout the community.
  • The affordable housing policy has a developer buyout option. Developers are allowed to buy out of the affordable housing requirement by contributing $100,000 per required unit to the City’s affordable housing fund. I think this dollar amount is too low. I’d like developers to pay a premium. Additionally, the Council has not determined the optimal way to reallocate money collected from developer buyouts to build affordable units elsewhere.

My Thoughts on How Edina Should Move Forward with Affordable Housing

I believe the City should require all developers to contribute toward affordable housing while keeping the 20+ multi-residential requirement intact.  Other development, including single-family tear-downs and rebuilds, commercial properties, and 10-unit residential developments would all contribute to the affordable housing fund.  I believe it is more fair to spread the burden of affordable housing.  This tactic would secure more funding and ease the expectation on this one segment of developers.

Edina’s affordable housing policy can be found on the City’s website here »