Candidate Questionnaire — Ward 6 — Terri Thao
Ward 6 contains the neighborhoods of Frost Lake, Hayden Heights, Hazel Park, Payne/Phalen, Phalen Village, and Prosperity. It is currently represented by Councilmember Kassim Busuri, who was appointed by the City Council after the resignation of Dan Bostrom. There are six candidates running; Alexander Bourne, Kassim Busuri, Greg Copeland, Danielle Swift, Terri Thao, and Nelsie Yang. We have received responses from Kassim Busuri and Terri Thao.
1. How do you plan to increase housing affordability in St. Paul?
I plan to increase housing affordability using the following strategies. First, we need to continue to invest in the Affordable Housing Trust fund to help increase supply of affordable housing. We also need to encourage development of units for middle income households such as townhomes or smaller unit homes. I am also supportive of promoting city and other financial resources to help current homeowners update and stay in their homes given our older housing stock in St. Paul. This is both cost effective and environmentally friendly. I would also encourage home ownership and other housing strategies to help mitigate against increased rents. Here I support alternative housing options such as accessory dwelling units, community land trusts and cooperatively-owned housing models to ensure long term affordability.
2. What do you see as the main cause for the shortage of affordable housing in St. Paul?
The lack of public resources is a key reason for the shortage of affordable housing in St. Paul. This is further complicated by the reduced tax base we have as the capital city in addition to having a higher number of cost-burdened families seeking affordable units. Another factor for the shortage is the increased cost to produce affordable housing. Lastly there is a problem of public will to allow production of new affordable units into neighborhoods across St. Paul with perceptions of reduced property values and racism towards new residents coming into neighborhoods.
Despite these causes I think there are ways to address these causes. First we can help increase the supply of affordable housing through examining regulatory costs and process improvements to reduce costs at the city level. I would be open to exploring policies such as inclusionary zoning which would mandate affordable units for all new housing development. I am also committed to changing the perception as messaging of affordable housing and emphasize the importance of needing different housing price points for longer term stability.
3. How can the city eliminate homelessness?
To eliminate homelessness there needs to be strategies for the city to address this issue in the short term and long term. In the short term, the city should continue to allow current shelters to increase the number of beds or for local parking lots to be used as safe spaces for people who are living out of their cars. The city should continue to work in partnership with the county, state, local service organizations, school district, police department and other partners to identify current homeless populations. The city should continue to track the data and report on the homelessness numbers.
For long term impact, the city can eliminate homelessness by ensuring housing for the long term homeless. The city should also track the current number of currently affordable units and require a notification of sale so that a new owner can be identified and commit to not displacing residents through rent increases. These rent increases can lead to incidences of homelessness. Here continued investment of new units and rehabbing current units will be key addressing supply. For affordability I would refer to the plans I have listed in my response to question one.
4. Do you support changing the city’s zoning to allow quadplexes everywhere in the city? If not, please explain why.
I am supportive of increasing density overall and I would be open to upzoning current zoning laws but am not sure if quadplexes are the right unit size — this could be triplexes or duplexes. I would want to discuss this with other Ward 6 residents. Upzoning would address the supply issue of housing but does equate to ownership or even co-ownership models which has a greater impact on family stability and increasing household wealth.
5. Do you support eliminating minimum parking requirements? If not, please explain why.
I served on the Planning Commission when we changed many of the citywide parking requirements so I understand that this is a complex issue and I would need more information before supporting eliminating minimum parking requirements altogether. This includes gathering information from various small, medium and large businesses about their customer base and how this is related to parking. I know requiring parking can increase the cost to small and midsize businesses.
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)?
Yes. We also need to support the collection of information on where current NOAH units are located in the city. I would support a local ordinance like the one in St. Louis Park where if a NOAH unit is going to be sold and rents are substantially increased, current residents would have a minimum of 90 days to find new housing and the landlord will pay moving costs. The city should also require sales information of such units be posted so that a local landlords, investors or even the tenants have an option to purchase the property.