St. Paul city leaders are moving forward with a huge and historic investment in low-cost living.

At their most recent City Council meeting, council members approved a $71 million plan to expand housing over the next three years.

Chris Tolbert represents Ward 3 and the Housing Redevelopment Authority.

“This is going to help people, help families, help create affordable housing and stable homes,” he said.

Tolbert spoke with enthusiasm as he announced the creation of a first-of-its-kind $10 million Affordable Housing Trust Fund with its own funding source from a newly re-opened parking ramp and a 10.46 percent tax levy.

“There are three priorities: Preservation of quality affordable housing, production of affording housing and protection of people who are living in affordable housing,” Tolbert said.

That is a reference to rent control for low-to-moderate income households. Records show right now in Ramsey County, there are 1,346 people on a waiting list, but only seven vacancies.

Thirty-year-old Latrice McKinney has seen it and lived it. Only six months ago, the single mother of two children was just trying to survive.

“I was actually in a shelter,” she said.

Now, her family lives at the Jamestown Complex near Interstate 94 and Dale Street. Her rent is subsidized and the units have recently been refurbished after years of wear and tear.

“There are two levels, central air, it’s awesome, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” she said.

The Jamestown is a huge block of renovated apartments that illustrate the kind of proposed projects targeting existing housing in St. Paul.

City leaders are considering other strategies that allow for more density and perhaps hiring a staffer who would focus solely on the city’s housing crisis.

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