Adventures in Suburbia: Building Affordable Housing in Blaine

On a 6-1 vote on August 3, the Blaine (MN) City Council approved an actual high-density housing development.

I have previously questioned Blaine’s priorities for development, including years of bizarre hand-wringing over putting high-density housing in other locations, like in The Lakes development.

However, Blaine has decided that it is time to approve some density. There are, of course, reasons that it has happened now, and on this site.

  1. The site is next to a Gun Club. Arguably, this is not where you want your next golf course community, am I not right?
  2. The “affordable” units will be for seniors, because market-rate seniors are okay, while struggling single parents are obviously risky and will bring crime. (The seniors probably cannot afford their medications, so may or may not be drug users. Depends on their Medicare D option.) This happens in a lot of places — affordable senior housing is more politically acceptable than building housing to help accommodate working families, or the people working the latte drive-through at 5AM.
  3. Beyond the senior housing component, there are few specifics about the 32-acre development yet.
  4. There is likely hope that the retail development will include the magic new grocery store some council members want in the community, even though there’s already a Walmart Supercenter, an Aldi, and a Cub right there.
  5. Did I mention the Gun Club will be a close neighbor? Mind you, it is a safe and controlled environment, but it’s not the neighbor everyone thinks of first for housing. The site had previously been proposed for Spring Lake Park’s new K-4 school building, but was eventually rejected in favor of some land near the National Sports Center.

Council members expressed concern about the lack of mass transit near the site, as though that isn’t true for pretty much everywhere in Blaine.

On the other hand, it’s been a past trend that Blaine doesn’t like its elders much, so offering them housing near the Gun Club is perhaps no surprise. The Blaine senior center is in a decrepit cement block building that Blaine residents voted against replacing in the last election. The center does offer busing, but is on the opposite side of town from these proposed units.

I would express hope that this is the start of a trend for Blaine in approving higher density development, but that’s a kind of optimism I can’t muster up. There’s only one Gun Club to build next to in Blaine, and most of the other vacant parcels are either commercial zoned or have neighbors who will protest any density.



About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Suburbia: Building Affordable Housing in Blaine

  1. cobo Rodreges

    It isn’t exactly a location I would like to live but the residential part won’t be that close to the gun range (approximately the same distance as the cub foods), at the intersection of lexington and 109th. Only the 6 acre portion furthest from the range will be developed. The neighbors will mostly be strip malls. You could probably hear the shots, but it shouldn’t be super loud.

    Also My guess is that this development will have lower average rents then other newly constructed apartments just due to it’s location, so it will probably help with housing affordability on a whole.

  2. Josh

    The strangest thing to me about suburban resistance to higher-density residential development is that I’m sure, the people who live out in Blaine have also, at one time, lived in an apartment or town home.

    At the very least, many went to college and lived in campus apartments or at least know of people who did.

    The demonizing of a construction type and relegating it to the least desirable corners of the city is so mind boggling to me.

    1. Monte Castleman

      Probably about half the people I know have never lived in multi-family housing. It’s becoming increasingly common for young people to live with their parents until they can afford their own house rather than go out the door into an apartment the minute they turn 18. I’m not sure living temporarily in a dorm at college the same thing, since you’re living with all your buddies and can go home to your parents house on weekends to hang out and do your laundry.

      Even if you did live in one once, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want one next door to your house, or a bunch of them in your community.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        Hm. They weren’t your buddies when you moved into the dorm and you can go home to your parents’ house on weekends to hang out and do your laundry from an apartment too.

        We’re actually far more aware of our neighbors in our house than we were in our downtown condo (primarily because it was a well-designed and well-constructed building).

        Unfortunately, lots of people makes assumptions about “renters” (see many of the Ford site comments) that indeed do lead them to not want a bunch of them in your community.

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