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Friday, February 14, 2014

The Saint Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority

Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen, Ward 5
As the recently elected Chair of Saint Paul's Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), I've enjoyed digging in to Saint Paul's development history and goals for the future. In short, the HRA (comprised of the seven members of the City Council) authorizes nearly all the activities of the Planning and Economic Development Department (PED). PED is responsible for ensuring a sufficient supply of adequate housing for persons of all income levels and redeveloping blighted areas. To accomplish these goals, PED can buy and sell land, rehabilitate housing, employ financial tools to spur redevelopment, and apply for and distribute financing from other governmental and non-governmental entities.

With nearly half of the commissioners on the HRA in their first terms (including yours truly), it’s the right time to refresh our knowledge-base, clarify our goals and help shape Saint Paul’s development plan for the future. To this end, Vice Chair Russ Stark and I have been engaged in a ‘listening tour’ with stakeholders over the past month. The meetings have been energizing and informative, and we plan to bring our regional and local development partners to the HRA on a regular basis to keep us apprised and engaged in economic development work that impacts our city. 

Recently, the HRA participated in a workshop with Ramsey County focused on cultivating economic prosperity. The county’s plan aims to bring its stakeholders to a consensus about the region's strengths and challenges when it comes to positioning ourselves for a future of shared prosperity. An important insight of this presentation is that Ramsey County (and the City of Saint Paul in particular) has a very high proportion of non-taxable and non-developable land as compared to other areas of Minnesota. In addition, we have a high percentage of subsidized housing for low and moderate income earners. Financially speaking, housing generally costs the city money (tax revenue falls short of the cost of development and services) and industry generates more revenue to finance public operations. Finding the right mix of jobs and housing will be a primary challenge the HRA faces as we assess potential investments.

Saint Paul’s outstanding public services and amenities make it a place people chose to live. Economic development and growth generates the revenue needed to support these vital services and creates jobs that will attract and retain a talented, community-centered workforce. I am excited to work with my HRA colleagues, PED and our local and regional stakeholders to find that balance and continue to move our great city towards an even more vibrant future.

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