Affordable Housing Needs

Housing, and affordable housing in particular, are critical issues in our metropolitan area.  The number of available affordable housing units continues to dwindle over time, Federal funding for affordable housing has been limited for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic and housing stress for many low- and middle-income families.  Read more. 

The future need for affordable housing is great.  As the Metropolitan Council’s Housing Policy Plan 2040 notes:

People are paying too much for housing.   More than 282,000 low- and moderate-income households in the region spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, and half of those households spend 50% of their income on housing.

Demand is growing.  Between 2020 and 2030, approximately 37,400 additional households will need affordable housing.

We’re rapidly aging.  More than 1 in 5 residents will be 65 or older in 2040.  Many seniors will have fixed incomes and want smaller, low-maintenance units

Singles will comprise more new households.  Nearly half of net new households will be individuals living alone.

Millennials have different housing preferences.  They are starting families and buying homes at later ages and want denser neighborhoods.


Arden Hills is a built-out community of mostly single-family, owner-occupied homes.  Other than Rice Creek Commons, 97% of available land is developed. Rental housing units are limited too.  Arden Hills has 480 multifamily units, many of which are too expensive for low-income families. It is estimated that 41% of rental households in Arden Hills pay more than 30% of their income on rent.  

The Metropolitan Council has established a goal for Arden Hills of 373 new affordable housing units between 2021 and 2030, distributed among three income levels.

See the Met Council's goals for affordable housing in Arden Hills

Affordable Housing Opportunities

The creation of new housing on 162 acres of Rice Creek Commons land is a once-in-generations opportunity because there is very little undeveloped land in Arden Hills.  This opportunity enables us to use up-to-date best practices in the creation of affordable housing within our larger housing community.  Read more. 

Arden Hills, like other suburbs that grew after World War II, already has significant affordable housing.  Applying Metropolitan Council standards, 40% of housing units were affordable in 2021, half for households making at least $60,000 a year.  The City should continue to encourage maintenance of existing affordable housing.  A variety of tools, including code enforcement, public service and street investments, parks, and home improvement loan programs, can help neighborhoods with affordable housing.


Arden Hills could take two big steps to provide for more affordable housing:

Commit to creating meaningful amounts of affordable housing in the Rice Creek Commons development.  Commit to building 373 new affordable units, which is the Metropolitan Council's goal for Arden Hills.  

Make policy changes that reflect a commitment to new affordable housing.  By adopting fair housing policies and creative financial incentives, the City could add new affordable housing in Rice Creek Commons and other available parts of the community as opportunities arise.

A comparison between the Highland Bridge development in St. Paul and the current Rice Creek Commons plan shows a starkly different approach to housing density and affordability. St. Paul's approach to their once-in-generations development is forward looking, imaginative and inclusive. It will attract all types of residents, developers, merchants, employers, and transportation services. Arden Hills must set much higher affordable housing goals for Rice Creek Commons.  

See Rice Creek Commons vs. Highland Bridge

Affordable Housing Benefits

A mix of new housing will benefit those singles and families of all ages and backgrounds that want to live in our community.   Affordable housing will fulfill our commitment to the Metropolitan Council to expand affordable housing units and will broaden opportunities for local hiring by our businesses and educational institutions.  Read more.

Among the benefits of an Arden Hills commitment to affordable housing are the following: 

Arden Hills will be recognized as a community supportive of social justice, equity, and fair housing principles.

Arden Hills housing availability and choices will appeal to a broad mix of residents, including:

Arden Hills will expand local hiring options.  The diverse needs of local employers can be better met with a broader mix of housing choices at different size and price points, and make Arden Hills more appealing to businesses seeking new locations or expansion alternatives.

Arden Hills will be a more attractive location for new public transportation investment.  These investments are usually dependent on greater population density and demand by potential riders.

Affordable Housing Myths - Crime and Property Values

Two persistent, but mistaken, beliefs suggest that affordable housing will increase neighborhood crime and decrease property values.  Research findings, however, debunk these myths and support development recommendations that help ensure vibrant and safe neighborhoods for everyone.  Read more.

Myth: Affordable housing will depress property values

Myth: Affordable housing will bring increased crime

Arden Hills Affordable Housing Myths

Our City Council maintains that Arden Hills has sufficient affordable housing, and the City lacks the ability or staff resources to encourage affordable housing.  The experience of other cities and our own past history shows that Arden Hills could do much more to actively encourage development of affordable housing.  Read more.

Arden Hills already has enough affordable housing.


Arden Hills housing is similar to other nearby cities.  Post-World War II development resulted in homes that are smaller than newer homes, and many lack amenities that newer homes often include.  These homes are already occupied and cannot fulfill the need for more new housing. 


Over time, many owners renovate and add space to older homes.  These improvements are desirable and help maintain and upgrade housing, but the improvements add value and reduce their ability to be affordable.


Arden Hills has failed to produce new affordable housing in the recent past.  According to the Metropolitan Council, the City was asked to add 288 new affordable housing units between 2011 and 2020; only 4 units were added.


Arden Hills lacks the authority or ability to produce more affordable housing.


Minnesota towns and cities have used zoning codes to discourage affordable and mixed income housing development.  However, municipalities can enact inclusionary zoning policies that encourage developers to create more affordable housing.


The Arden Hills Comprehensive Plan for 2021 – 2030 states in Section 6.1: “Through zoning, subdivision, and other land use regulations, a city has powerful tools to guide the long-term look, feel, and vitality of the community.” 


Arden Hills lacks the staff to support affordable housing projects.


Like any City activity, staff costs may occur.  If the City adopts a more active role in supporting affordable housing projects, it may require more staff hours to create incentive programs or assist developers to get financial assistance.  In most cases, the developer will bear the costs.


 Affordable housing for Rice Creek Commons will burden Arden Hills taxpayers.


The City Council has not wanted Arden Hills residents to bear costs for the development of Rice Creek Commons.  This ignores the past expenses involved in TCAAP planning over the past 25 years.

Rice Creek Commons Development History

The City of Arden Hills and Ramsey County have been planning for the development of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant since 2012. Read more.

2012 - Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills agreed to jointly develop land in northern Arden Hills at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site.


April 2013 - Ramsey County purchased 427 acres for $30 million.  The County spent another $11 million on building removal, soil clean-up and road development.


July 2015 - The first master plan for the development was approved.  1431 housing units on residential acreage was established as a goal.


May 2016 - Alatus was chosen as the master developer.


Dec 2016 – A revised master plan was approved.  The plan increased the number of housing units to 1460; 10% affordable for families earning about $84,000.


Aug 2018 - Alatus agreed to pay $62.7 million for 300 acres to begin development; the purchase would occur in five phases.  Arden Hills asked for a delay in the sale.


Late 2018 - Ramsey County stopped site preparation because of differences in goals with Arden Hills.  The County wanted to increase housing up to 2500 units, increase the amount of affordable housing up to 20% and create housing for households making less than $84,000 a year.  They also wanted the City to pay another $1.8 million for infrastructure.  The County asked for mediation, but the City declined.


March 2019 - Ramsey County asked Arden Hills to end the joint agreement and stopped attending joint meetings. 


May 2019 - Ramsey County filed a lawsuit to end the joint agreement.


Aug 2019 - The judge assigned to the lawsuit ordered mediation.


Sept 2019 (federal) & May 2020 (state) - The Environmental Protection Agency and MN Pollution Control Agency delisted soil and surface water from their superfund lists.  Groundwater remains on the lists and will be treated by the U.S. Army.  This will not affect development.


March 2020 - Mediation ended with no agreement. 


June 2021 - The Ramsey County lawsuit and the Arden Hills countersuit were settled.  The judge decided that the joint agreement needed to continue and recommended that both the County and City compromise.

May 2022 - Arden Hills and the developer Alatus agreed on new terms that increased the affordable housing goal to 326 units and made more units affordable at lower levels of income. Alatus also agreed to pay for many upfront infrastructure costs. These new terms were submitted to Ramsey County for approval.

June 2022 - Ramsey County rejected the proposal of new terms offered by Arden Hills and Alatus, stating that more overall housing units are needed than the 1,460 housing units in the 2016 Master Plan.

February 2023 - Following city and county elections in2022, new members were appointed to the Joint Development 

Authority (JDA). Their first regular meeting was held on February 6, 2023. Agendas and minutes of JDA meetings and working sessions are published on the City of Arden Hills' website.

Ramsey County / Arden Hills Impasse, 2019-2022

Ramsey County and Arden Hills signed an agreement to work jointly on the development of Rice Creek Commons. Since 2019, the two parties have been unable to agree on housing goals and financial commitments to the development. Read more.

Ramsey County originally committed $51,000,000 to develop Rice Creek Commons.  $41 million has already been spent on the land purchase, infrastructure and clean-up costs. Arden Hills originally committed $8,200,000 to develop Rice Creek Commons.  Approximately $1,020,000 has been spent on planning costs from 2013-2021. 

The following chart provides a summary of the primary areas of disagreement between Ramsey County and Arden Hills regarding the development of Rice Creek Commons. View the chart.

The inability to resolve these disagreements led to Ramsey County filing a lawsuit in 2019 to terminate the joint agreement between the County and the City.  The lawsuit and a countersuit filed by Arden Hills were settled in June 2021.  Judge Edward Wahl of Hennepin County District Court determined the joint agreement must remain in place, and he advised both parties to compromise.  

In May 2022, Arden Hills offered to increase the goal for affordable housing to 326 units. However, Ramsey County rejected the offer because Arden Hills did not increase the overall goal for the number of housing units. 

Common Terms - Affordable Housing and Rice Creek Commons

Definitions are provided for terms often used when describing or discussing the Rice Creek Commons development and affordable housing.  Read more. 

Affordability bands

The ranges for income, housing values and rental costs for the groupings most commonly used to define affordable housing. Income bands:

30% and below of AMI

31% - 50% of AMI

51% - 80% of AMI


Area Median Income (AMI)

The income amount at which 50% of the population in an area earn more and 50% earn less.  The most recent listed AMI amount for a family of four in the metropolitan area (2022) is $118,200.


Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR)

The Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) is a planning tool used by local governments. It helps them understand how different development scenarios could affect the community's environment. The State of Minnesota requires the AUAR for sites like Rice Creek Commons because of their size and complexity.  Here are some of the areas covered by the AUAR: 

Download the completed AUAR for Rice Creek Commons here.

Cost-burdened households

Households that pay more than 30% of their total income for housing costs.


Housing density

The number of housing units allowed per acre.  Housing density is established by local governments.


Inclusionary zoning

Municipal and county planning ordinances that require a share of new housing construction to be affordable to people with low to moderate incomes.  The municipality or county may offer incentives to developers such as a housing density bonus, expedited project approval and/or fee waivers.


Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) / Joint Development Authority (JDA)

The Joint Powers Agreement is between the City of Arden Hills and Ramsey County. It is the legal agreement that allows the two parties to make decisions together regarding development of TCAAP/Rice Creek Commons.  It calls for the establishment of a Joint Development Authority. 

The Joint Development Authority consists of two members from the City Council, two members from the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners and one appointed resident from Arden Hills. 

The purpose of the JDA is to 1) implement the TCAAP/Rice Creek Commons Master Plan, and 2) oversee the TCAAP/Rice Creek Commons redevelopment process.

Rice Creek Commons

The name of the proposed development at the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) site.


Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP)

The site north of Highway 96 and east of Highway 35W was previously owned by the U.S. Army.  It housed an ammunitions plant during World War II which continued production until the 1970s.


2040 Comprehensive Plan

Every ten years cities submit a Comprehensive Plan to the Metropolitan Council.  The plan includes reports for the coming decade on the community profile, community vision, land use, housing, economic development, parks and recreation, infrastructure, and transportation.  The Metropolitan Council approves the Comprehensive Plans and uses the information for regional planning.

Facts and Figures

The following population and housing information is listed on the Metropolitan Council's web site.  Population information uses 2020 US Census data. Housing values use 2020 and 2021 estimates. Learn more.