Steven Dornfield recently did an article on the Met Council’s Livable Communities grants. Since 1996 the Met Council has been granting for developments or planning that encourage location efficiency or affordable housing. As Dornfield writes:
From 1996 through 2010, the council awarded 633 grants totaling more than $212 million in Livable Communities funds. Of those, 68 awards have been relinquished, for a net of 565 grants totaling $181 million. The net results of these grants are expected to leverage billions of dollars in private and other public investments.
Dornfield does not mention that grants to projects in Minneapolis and St Paul are capped at a combined 40% of the total granting. He does link to a Met Council staff report that displays all the fury of a bureaucrat politicized. If your sense of humor is as nerdy as mine, you’ll agree that it’s worth quoting extensively:
Impact of the 40/60 ratio between the central cities and the suburbs
The previous Council instituted guidelines for funding that allow the LCAC to recommend no more than 40% of the available LCDA funding for projects located in the central cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The LCAC may, if it desires, suggest an additional amount to be awarded to the central cities above the 40% threshold. In this funding cycle, the LCAC is recommending 39.13% to the central cities. Between 1996 and 2010 42% of LCDA funds have been granted to the central cities out of the total $98,014,453 awarded, or $40,711,364.
As a result of the requirement to consider the urban/suburban ratio, in some funding cycles higher-scoring projects in the central cities are not funded, while lower-scoring suburban projects receive awards. In the 2011 recommendations, five central cities projects were not recommended for award in whole or in part in order to maintain the required 60% recommendation for suburban projects.
…To make their recommendations for Development awards, the LCAC starts with the highest-scoring projects and works down the list, making funding recommendations for each individual application. During this process, the LCAC monitors the overall percentage of funding being recommended for the central cities. When the percentage equals the 40% limit, the LCAC skips any further recommendations for central cities applications, moving down to the next-highest scoring project from a suburban applicant.
This makes the funding recommendation process somewhat complicated. For example, the top five scoring Development projects are all located in the central cities. However, when the two Pre-Development projects from the central cities are added to the top five Development projects, the amount for the central cities exceeds the 40% threshold. The LCAC therefore withheld their recommendation for the fifth-highest project, Currie Park Lofts, until they could determine how much was available. They then recommended the full funding for The Enclave Trails Apartments. Because the 40% limit had already been exceeded, the LCAC did not recommend any funding for Corcoran Triangle, from Minneapolis, but instead recommended full funding for the next three projects, all from suburban applicants. The Committee then skipped West Side Flats, from Saint Paul, and recommended full funding for Cobblestone Senior Housing and 9805 Highway 55 Apartments. They skipped Minneapolis’ Spirit on Lake, recommended full funding for Woodbury’s City Walk Apartments, skipped Saint Paul’s Beacon Bluff, and fully funded Watertown’s Downtown Redevelopment Phase II. With the available remaining funds, the Committee opted to recommend partial funding to the Mahtomedi request and, skipping back up to the highest-scoring unfunded central city project, they were able to recommend just over 40% of the requested amount for Currie Park Lofts, rounding out the full $9 million available for 2011.
The Met Council, of course, “serves at the pleasure of the Governor”, so it’s not surprising that Pawlenty’s council would cap the amount of money going to an area that never voted for him. Seems like bad policy, though, to limit grants for multifamily housing in the part of the metro that has the most available land for multifamily housing… and that was hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. Hopefully this new council will read the frustration in this bureaucratic report and allow merit to be the primary determinant of grant recipients.