The Metropolitan Council is under fire for not using its authority to press wealthy, white suburbs in the Twin Cities to do their part to create affordable housing.
Social-justice advocates want the Met Council to more evenly create affordable housing across the region.
Among them is Joy Marsh Stephens, a board member of the group ISAIAH, which has joined other fair-housing groups and racial-justice allies, including the St. Paul NAACP, in pressing the Met Council to strengthen its housing policy plan.
Stephens, who is running for mayor in the first-ring suburb of Brooklyn Park, said despite the Met Council's stated commitment to reducing racial disparities, it is not acting aggressively enough to ensure the entire region has housing that's affordable to low-income families.
"When other cities aren't being asked to do their fair share, it puts undue burden on cities like my city, to carry more of that weight," Stephens said.
The Met Council released a draft of its new policy this week. One of the authors, Libby Starling, said there's no dispute that housing to support low- and moderate-income families needs to be more evenly spread across the region. But she said not everyone agrees on how to do it.
"There are those who want the Met Council to play more of an authoritarian [approach], mandating additional affordable housing across the region," Starling said. "We're taking more of a collaborative, supportive approach — trying to work with local governments."
Starling said the council wants to provide more incentives and technical assistance to help cities expand their affordable housing.
But some fair-housing advocates say the council is shrinking from its commitment to reduce racial disparities, among the worst in the nation.
University of Minnesota law professor Myron Orfield said the Met Council plan weakens its previous policies on fair housing and will worsen pockets of poverty and segregation.
"In an Orwellian manner, its new housing policy declares that the Council will address the harms of overconcentration and racial segregation by encouraging more overconcentration and more segregation in the central cities and older suburbs along transit lines," Orfield wrote earlier this month in a letter to a council working group that helped develop the plan.
Met Council officials deny that the new policy is weaker than before. It says it's choosing to work more collaboratively with local communities.
The public has until Sept. 26 to weigh in on the plan.