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!