Jenny Berg’s article about Monday night’s City Council meeting focused mainly on a proposed multiple city affordable housing project.

In her article, Ms. Berg wrote “Matt Glaesman, community development director, said a coalition led by United Way is working on a joint project between St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, St. Joseph and Waite Park where each city would work to bring an affordable housing project to its city. A joint agreement could help the cities get funding, which is highly competitive.” Later, George Hontos said “he wants a joint resolution to show interest from other cities” before the city commits to the project.

I can’t picture that happening. According to the most recent census information, the Median Household Income for Sartell is $73,872. Just 3.7% of their citizens live below the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL. By contrast, 23.3% of St. Cloud residents live below the FPL. St. Cloud’s Median Household Income is $45,437. By comparison, the MHI in Sauk Rapids is $48,410. 21.5% of Sauk Rapids residents live below the FPL.

What incentive does Sartell have to join this coalition? They’re projecting an image of being an upscale community. It’s in Sartell’s best interests to be seen as a growing community filled with upper middle class citizens. There isn’t a visible upside to supporting affordable housing in their community because that would bring property values down. Further, affordable housing might lead to their city getting refugees. They’ve been trying to avoid that.

As usual, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis tried spinning the project:

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said a “win-win” could be building new affordable housing and moving tenants from HRA-owned Empire Apartments to the new housing. The existing Empire site, which is a catalyst site in the city’s comprehensive plan, could then be used for redevelopment. The city would be required to relocate Empire Apartment residents if the building is removed, Kleis said. A new building could house those residents plus meet additional demand for affordable housing.

“It could be a pretty significant win,” he said.

Kleis sees the grant money and little else. I’d love hearing him explain how this would be a win for Sartell.

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