Candidate Questionnaire — Ward 2 — Rebecca Noecker
Ward 2 contains the neighborhoods of 7th Street, the West Side, Summit Hill, Railroad Island, Lowertown, and Downtown. It is currently represented by Councilmember Rebecca Noecker. There are five candidates running: Sharon Anderson, Bill Hosko, Lindsay Ferris Martin, Helen Meyers, Rebecca Noecker. We have received responses from Councilmember Noecker, Sharon Anderson, Lindsay Ferris Martin, and Bill Hosko.
1. How do you plan to increase housing affordability in St. Paul?
First, we need to make it easier for developers to build more housing more quickly. One of the most effective ways to do this is to streamline City permitting processes so developers can get out of the red tape and get to work. This is the work of our Open for Business initiative, which I helped start at the beginning of my first term.
We need to create new housing options, such as Accessory Dwelling Units and tiny homes, to increase the supply of housing. I don’t support compromising on density in new developments, such as the Ford Site redevelopment.
When new housing is built, we need to make it affordable. I was a co-author of the Council’s affordable housing resolution last year which requested staff to research inclusionary zoning, density bonuses and other means of expanding the supply of affordable housing.
I’ve successfully advocated for longer periods of affordability in my own ward (including one project that will extend affordability up to 40 years) and I supported changes to our Qualified Allocation Plan which determines which development proposals receive city subsidies and which now requires a 30-year period of affordability, rather than 15 years. However, there are legal limits to how many years you can require units to remain affordable in exchange for financing. Therefore, I am a strong proponent of strategies for long-term affordability that focus on getting more units under the ownership and management of non-for-profit housing developers, such at Saint Paul Public Housing, Commonbond, and Project for Pride in Living.
I believe that the City and State must also commit more funds to affordable housing, as an essential infrastructure of a healthy state and communities. I serve on a regional task force recently convened by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to find regional solutions to the problem of homelessness, and that includes additional state funding. I’m proud to have voted in favor of a $10 million housing trust fund in our 2019 budget which will support these efforts.
2. What do you see as the main cause for the shortage of affordable housing in St. Paul?
The main cause of the shortage of affordable housing is our strong regional housing market, which allows developers to charge higher rents. The other cause is that we lack financial tools to incentivize developers to create affordable housing. This is why I’m interested in an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require affordable housing when market-rate housing is developed.
3. How can the city eliminate homelessness?
The City can address its homelessness crisis by 1) expanding the supply of affordable housing, 2) investing in street outreach teams to engage with people experiencing homelessness, 3) building smaller shelters that respond to residents’ needs, allowing them to stay with their partners or pets, for example, and 4) engage our peer cities and counties throughout the metro region in seeing homelessness as a shared responsibility, where each local government should be held accountable for production of affordable housing and shelter. I have been working on each of these areas through my participation on the Outside-In Collaborative and the state-led Public Sector Leadership Group on Homelessness.
4. Do you support changing the city’s zoning to allow quadplexes everywhere in the city? If not, please explain why.
I am intrigued by the idea of allowing quadplexes citywide — and I also know that for every policy change, especially one with such a far reach, the details matter and there are often important consequences of the policy that aren’t immediately apparent. I would want to better understand the implications of this rezoning for our housing market before committing to a position on this issue.
5. Do you support eliminating minimum parking requirements? If not, please explain why.
Yes. I have long advocated for eliminating parking requirements, primarily to support the growth of small businesses in our neighborhoods. In many parts of my ward, built before the advent of the automobile, businesses that would like to open are hampered by the fact that on-site parking isn’t sufficient for our code requirements. I believe businesses know how much parking their customers require and that the public street should be available to all — including residents and visitors who are supporting our economy.
6. Do you support funding the city’s 4(d) affordable housing program? If not, how will you preserve at-risk Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH)?