NEWS DAY | MN, metro housing costs / Ready for Rail? / Plugging the leaks

Housing costs more than half the paycheck for approximately 22 percent of Minnesotans who rent and about ten percent of those who own their homes, according to a new report from the Minnesota Housing Project.  The report gives a county-by-county analysis, including the news that most people across the state have to pay more than the “affordable” 30 percent of income on housing:

  • In only nine counties is owning a median-priced home affordable to all of MHP’s five featured occupations working full time (elementary school teacher, registered nurse, police officer, food preparation worker, and retail salesperson). These nine counties are in western Minnesota with homes among the least expensive in the state.
  • In not one county is renting a typical 2-bedroom apartment fully affordable to all featured workers earning the median regional pay for those occupations. Such workers would need to pay more than 30% of their income to afford a 2-bedroom apartment.

In Hennepin County, a median-priced home cost $219,900 in 2009, and fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $899 per month in 2010. In Ramsey County, a median-priced home cost $197,880 in 2009, and fair market rent was the same $899 per month.

Ready for Rail? That’s the slogan promoted in a blizzard of press releases and a press conference with Mayors Chris Coleman and R.T. Rybak yesterday. MPR reports on the press conference, which announced a packet of information to be delivered to businesses and a loan fund. How great is that? Opinions differ:

Here’s how it works: If businesses can prove they have prepared for rail, yet lose money during construction, they can apply for no-interest loans of up to $10,000. The fund, so far, totals $1.5 million.

But that’s just a fraction of the $50 million community development fund set up in Seattle, which was put together in part to lessen the impact of light-rail construction on residents and businesses.

Many business owners say that’s not enough. One of them is already bailing, reports MPR:

Chouaphia Vang is the owner of Krua Thailand, and his restaurant’s last day of business will be July 29. He says he’s been hit hard by the tough economy, and a lot of small businesses like his are already tapping into their savings. Vang says he thinks construction of light-rail would kill them off completely.

Plugging the leaks in drilling laws is a long-term solution that should go along with plugging the leak in the Gulf, according to Pew Trust. The Pew Environmental Group wants Congress to pass legislation that will:

  • Allow offshore development only in cases where it’s proven that the marine and coastal environment won’t be harmed;
  • Require a demonstration of fast and effective spill response capability before approval of exploration and production, and also regular testing of this capacity;
  • Ensure that offshore producers use the safest and best technology, and provide incentives to keep improving safety measures;
  • Eliminate liability limits for oil spill damages to ensure that all economic and environmental costs are recovered; and
  • Guarantee affected communities meaningful input into offshore development and spill prevention and response decisions.

Check in with Pew to follow the legislation and for fact sheets – then make your voice heard.

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