Tia Williams, Tou SaiKo Lee and MK Nguyen's Response

CURA’s Gentrification research is amplifying the voices of the community who have been telling stories of displacement for years. Stories need facts and numbers to back them up, especially on an issue as amorphous as “gentrification.” Numbers and facts combined with community action might just be enough to turn the tide on this displacement tsunami we are experiencing along the Green Line.

CURA digs into the definition of affordable housing and lays out the numbers in a seminal way; bringing light to issues the community has been struggling with for years. Since the Green LIne went down community members have been sounding the alarm around the fact that the “affordable housing” being built along the Line is not within their reach. The Community Stabilization Project demanded that we use the City median income in place of HUD’s in 1992!!!! THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

Today the housing system puts virtually all of its public subsidy into housing at 60-80% of regional median income, it does not reach your typical Frogtowner. “That dramatic mismatch between the regional median income and what families earn at a neighborhood level is particularly pronounced in places like Frogtown. In stark comparison to the $90,400 area median income for the region, median renter income in much of Frogtown is below $25,000.”

Only 366 of the more than 6,300 new affordable housing units produced were affordable to families earning 30% AMI or less. THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

We must take the conversations about our local community developers use of subsidy to develop housing at 60-80% of median income out of our inner circles and place it where it belongs; on front street, where policy can change it. The Community Stabilization Project demanded that we use the City median income in place of HUD’s in 1992!!!! THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

“These projects have some of the same requirements of a luxury apartment in Woodbury. The research concurs: Additionally, affordable housing units often come with

the requirement of higher credits scores, caps on the number of tenants per bedroom, and stringent background checks for all potential tenants, all of which makes the new affordable housing developments not only unaffordable for historic residents, but also inaccessible.” Housing advocates are developing alternative rental admissions and occupancy policies that should be supported by elected officials and the industry. THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

Rent Control, long a forbidden word (in all seriousness it is really forbidden through state statute) is now being used in the halls of the State Capitol. The report finds that across St. Paul after the -inflation median rent rose 3.5 percent from 2000 to 2014, while it rose 31 percent in Frogtown during the same period. In Frogtown, the median rent went up $414 per month due to inflation. RENTS HAVE INCREASED $414 SINCE 2014!! THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

Frogtowners have known for years, what is now crystal clear in research. Unless serious and intentionally interrupted, market forces will displace poor families and soon. FNA believes that the folks who brought us the Green Line; the Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Hennepin and Ramsey County, The Central Funders Collaborative, The Metropolitan Council and the State need to work with community NOW to avert a crisis. THIS IS FROGTOWN AND THIS IS HOME.

Frogtown is the home to one of the last community own cooperatives in the state. Residents of The Wilder Square Cooperatives, along with FNA have created a Taskforce to fight against a corporate management company’s attempt to dissolve the historic cooperative and start raising rents immediately. The Residents are fighting to preserve the 168 units of deeply affordable townhomes. Wilder Square was established in 1974 and is a true example of how NOAH is or can be a benefit in protecting Frogtown. THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

We also believe that there is always enough time to do the right work. If the change we need to see moves at the speed of trust, then the pace of development must match the pace of community engagement and ownership over project. The gifts held by the people in Frogtown are vital to what makes St. Paul one of the most livable cities in country. We need to protect that. This means we need to start seeing see the real value of Frogtown as sacred and worthy of protection. This means we need to start seeing housing as a human right and not a market commodity. THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

Frogtown is known for its evolving cultural knowledge and relationship to place. It holds a multitude of worldviews, cosmology, ritual, language, social organizational forms, and other practices. Our abundant creativity and resourcefulness is reflected in the businesses alongside University, our murals, our cultural centers embedded in neighborhood corners, the community and backyard herb, vegetable, fruit, and medicine gardens shifting soil across the neighborhood, people in Frogtown hold deep experiences and knowledge in turning something from nothing, doing more with less, and transforming problems into possibilities. FNA’s recently published Small Area Plan (SMAPL) is a perfect example of who we are; artist centered, deeply grassroots and centered on solutions! Anti-Displacement policy is at the heart of the community’s vision for the next decade. THIS IS FROGTOWN. THIS IS HOME.

Now, a lot of different interests are here and it is disrupting our flow. The people who make the neighborhood an irresistible resting spot are the same people who are getting displaced. It takes a long time for people to learn about each other and build relationships that lead to efforts mentioned above. Displacement disrupts this continuum of people moving from isolation to belonging. We need the people who are already here to stay here. THIS IS FROGTOWN!

THIS IS HOME!

Tia Williams

Tia Williams, Co-Director FNA, long time Frogtown Resident, coming home soon

Tou SaiKo Lee

Tou SaiKo Lee, Community Artist, Outreach Organizer, FNA Board member, Frogtown Resident

MK Nguyen

MK Nguyen, Saint Paul Promise Neighborhoods, Frogtown Mom