Stop us if you've heard this story before: Met Council is forcing affordable housing into a posh neighborhood and neighbors are fighting it tooth and nail, making themselves look like elitist jackasses in the process.
A decade ago, Blaine needed money to clean up pollution in a small portion of its planned Woodland Village development. According to Mayor Tom Ryan, the Met Council gave the city $250,000 -- as long as it set aside at least seven lots for affordable housing in the development.
"Seven lots was the deal, and it was a good one," says Ryan. "It was either take the money and do the cleanup or never build the site out."
Now Habitat for Humanity is trying to purchase eight lots and build 1,563-square-foot ramblers it estimates will be appraised between $275,000 and $300,000. The Blaine City Council was scheduled to vote on the deal April 2, but that was tabled until May when neighbors showed up to protest.
According to emails submitted to the city opposing Habitat, neighbors fear the new, smaller homes will "decimate property values." They're also worried about the quality of craftsmanship on homes built by volunteers, that the homes won't fit into the aesthetic of the neighborhood, and that new families may struggle to keep up with lawn maintenance.
You know, typical hallmarks of strong, supportive neighborhoods.
In addition to the upkeep concerns, Woodland Village residents also feel deceived because they say the developer never told them about the deal to bring affordable ($300,000!) homes into their quiet suburban enclave.
One letter writer, Christy Baccam, wrote that she's actually helped on several Habitat for Humanity projects. But having one in her own back yard? No thanks.
"When we built our home, there were strict guidelines that we had to follow, and that's what we expected all and future houses in the area to follow as well," she wrote. "There are $400k on up priced homes here. Tell me how it makes sense to build low-income houses here?"
Baccam declined to speak on the record because "the media just twists our words to make us look like the bad guys."
"I think the perception may be we're going to build rinky-dink homes that will be falling apart, and we're going to put in families there that don't have jobs and won't take care of them," says Matt Haugen with Habitat for Humanity. "While these homes may not be the giant things they're next to, they are going to be nice-looking suburban homes bought by families who are paying a mortgage."
Haugen says the families will go through an extensive vetting process to make sure their work, school, and transportation plans are feasible, and that they can afford the interest-free mortgage.
"If you take out a $300,000 mortgage at 4 percent, you end up paying $215,000 in interest over the 30 years. Our families don't pay that. That's why they'll be able to afford them," he says.
If Blaine doesn't approve at least seven affordable houses in Woodland Village, it will need to find a way to pay back Met Council for the $250,000 clean-up.
"I doubt it will even be noticeable," says Mayor Ryan. "We have people who don't take care of their property in $450,000 homes, and we have lower-income people who take great care of their property. [Opponents] always say it's not about not wanting 'those kind of people,' but what other reason would there be?"
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