The Dakota County Community Development Agency is pulling out all the stops when it comes to the development of affordable housing.
Already this year, off Northwoods Circle in Eagan. But that's not all the CDA has in store for the city.
Last week, the agency put plans into motion for a second, 28-unit affordable housing facility, which would be located on a 4.3-acre site at Hwy. 13 and Letendre Street in Eagan. The Riverview Ridge townhome complex, which could be completed as early as December 2013, would be the CDA's fourth such facility in Eagan and may cost as much as $3.6 million.
In response to the increased demand, The CDA is also planning to construct another affordable housing unit in Inver Grove Heights. New developments are also underway in Lakeville, Rosemount and Farmington, said Dakota County Community Development Agency Deputy Executive Director Kari Gill.
At the Eagan City Council meeting last week, the council directed city staff to submit a Comprehensive Guide Plan Land Use amendment to the Metropolitan Council for review. If the Met Council approves the request, the CDA will likely submit a rezoning request, a preliminary site plan and a final platting request for the proposed Riverview Ridge townhome development site.
The lingering effects of the recession have led to a substantial increase in local demand for affordable housing across the county, according to Gill.
The Dakota County Community Development Agency already operates 19 family townhome developments— scattered across the county as part of its Family Townhome Program. The program is designed for moderate-income families with children 18 years old or younger that can provide good landlord and credit references and pass a criminal history check.
Under the program guidelines, applicants must also meet minimum and maximum income requirements. For example, a family of four must have an income of $50,400 or less to apply for the townhome program, whereas a family of two must have an income of $40,320 or less to be eligible. Families or individuals admitted to the program pay fixed monthly rent in exchange for housing.
Countywide, roughly 1,800 families are on the wait list for the CDA's family townhome program. Of those families, approximately 1,100 listed Eagan as one of their preferred communities. Eagan's transportation network and business base are particularly attractive for prospective families, Gill and Dakota County CDA Assistant Director of Administration Sara Swenson said.
“We have a lot more people on the Eagan list than the other cities," Swenson said.
In response to the increased demand, The CDA is also planning to construct another affordable housing unit in Inver Grove Heights. New developments are also underway in Lakeville, Rosemount and Farmington, Gill said.
At the council meeting last week, several Eagan City Councilors spoke in support of the project.
"I think that the fact as has been presented tonight—that we have 1,100 households in Eagan on the waiting list for workforce housing—is compelling," council member Gary Hansen said. "This property provides us with an opportunity to make a very small dent in that."
But the CDA's plans were met with concern or opposition from several residents living near the location of the proposed project.
The 4.3-acre site is made up of three separate properties—two undeveloped lots and the former Richfield Blacktop property. One Eagan resident, Ron Miller voiced concerns about potential pollution on the Richfield Blacktop property, and the proliferation of rental properties in the neighborhood.
Although he voted to send the land use amendment on to the Met Council, Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire also issued a challenge to the CDA. The proposed project site, he said, is isolated by its proximity to Hwy. 13, and has no easy connections to the city's parks system.
Maguire urged Gill and other CDA officials to come up to a solution to the perceived access problem.
"I don't think it's appropriate for us to anticipate that we're going to have families in who are potentially of lower socio-economic means, and that they're going to be isolated in our community from our parks system," Magure said. "Getting out of that site on foot, seems to me to be really challenging, especially for a child."