Council considers request to build workforce housing in city
By Megan Hopps
SUN PRESS Newspapers
During this past summer the Dayton City Council met to discuss a letter of support the city sent to developer Sand Companies Inc. regarding plans to construct a 48 unit multi-tenant building in the city.
This project would help the city meet housing and density goals as part of Dayton’s comprehensive plan. The developer has not come forward with a project proposal at this time, but intends to build on the east side of Balsam Lane, just south of Dayton River Road. Before any plans are approved the council made it clear that, while the developer does have a project ready for review, it would like to schedule an open house to gather public comments.
In an effort to learn more about affordable housing, the Dayton mayor, council and staff arranged a bus tour with Housing For All, a community-based coalition advocating for stable housing in the north west suburbs of Hennepin County. After an informational meeting with Housing For All staff, the mayor, council, staff and interested community members departed from Dayton Elementary School to Cornerstone Village, a workforce housing development in St. Michael.
What is Workforce Housing?
“Workforce housing allows anyone to live in our communities, whether they are families with children, people recently divorced or widowed, college graduates, young professionals or elderly,” said Roxanne Smith, Social Justice Director for St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. “This housing is safe and stable, allowing people of moderate and low incomes to live where they work, play, worship and attend school.”
Smith explained that there is a need, especially in Hennepin County, for affordable housing. Many people living on a single income or social security cannot afford current housing options in their communities, she said. Smith went on to site that the average rent per month in Maple Grove in 2015 for a one bedroom is $1,048. On average, a two bedroom costs $1,300 and a three bedroom even higher, ranging from $1,800 to $2,100 per month. This means that waiters and waitresses, cashiers, bank tellers, teachers, construction laborers, police officers and many other professionals living on a single income will struggle to make ends meet.
“The high cost of housing hurts families who cannot afford it and threatens Minnesota’s long-term viability,” Smith said. “Families that must spend 30 percent of more of their income just on housing are forced to make many tough choices with their remaining dollars; food versus medicine, clothes versus savings and so on. This housing cost bind is a reality for one in three Minnesota households today and three in five with annual income below $50,000.”
Smith went on to explain that entry level and retail workers cannot afford to live in the north west suburbs as the median wage in the metro area is $17 per hour, according to the Minnesota Department of Economic Development.
Workforce housing in Dayton?
Currently, the Dayton City Council has sent a letter of support to Sand Companies, an affordable housing developer, for a 48-unit multi-tenant building to be constructed on Balsam Lane and Dayton River Road.
“Staff has laid out very strong, positive reasons why this project would benefit our city,” Mayor Tim McNeil said. “Anything that’s going to increase our revenues, improve the neighborhood and lower taxes, I’m in favor of.”
The last time this item was brought before the Dayton Council was back in July. At the time, Councilor Bob O’Brien and Mayor Tim McNeil seemed in favor of the proposal and urged other councilors to give the development a chance.
“When it comes to our financial responsibility, this is an opportunity that I think you should take a look at,” City Administrator Bob Derus said. “I’d be willing to go to an open house and say, ‘I think this is good for the city.’ But we have to have the courage to stand up and say, ‘This is good for Dayton.’ Sometimes we have to pull the trigger on difficult decisions. The point is that what we’ve inherited is a plan that calls for growth, whether we like it or not, in order to pay for a debt. We need to be responsible for that. We’ve got a $92,000 grant behind this thing, we’ve got support form the Met Council, from Hennepin County. Those aren’t just important partners, those are necessary partners and we want to make sure we’re not wounding those relationships.”
During the meeting in July, Councilor Scott Salonek brought up his concern for crime that could come along with the project.
“They set up rules that we can enforce,” said Dayton Police Chief Paul Enga. “Just like in our trailer park if we get three calls for service to a trailer, the park management automatically files for eviction and we can set that up with this apartment complex because the manager is going to be on site and we can work with them and establish a good relationships.”
He added that the reason some apartment complexes in other cities that are experiencing crime related issues is because they don’t have close relationships with the managers of those units and that the big reason they built those units is to bring in revenue.
“As the chief of the city and looking out for the public safety of the community, this is probably one of the better projects that has come before you because the fact is I can work with that manager and I can work with that company to establish those relationships and work with them to get those rules in place in the apartment complex so we can get them evicted if we have issues,” said Chief Enga.
Councilor O’Brien reminded the council at the meeting to look out for the best interest of the city.
“Our job is not to talk to individual people and see what they like and what they don’t like,” said O’Brien. “Our job is to ask ourselves ‘Is this good for Dayton?’ I think this is good for Dayton. We have to have the courage to stand up and say this is good for Dayton, it’s good for Dayton for these reasons and I’m going to vote for it.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, the council unanimously approved a letter of support for the project, encouraging the developer to come forward with a plan. No project has been presented before the council at this time, nor has one been approved.
Contact Megan Hopps at [email protected]