Basics: Affordable Housing  & 

Rice Creek Commons 

What will the Rice Creek Commons development look like?

Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills are reviewing the master plan that was developed in 2016. They are gathering additional financial, economic development and demographic information to help them make any  necessary revisions to the master plan. Alatus, LLC continues to be the master developer.

Who decides if more affordable housing will be built at Rice Creek Commons?

Ultimately it's up to the Joint Development Authority (JDA): the City of Arden Hills and Ramsey County. They have to negotiate the amount of affordable housing that will be built and at what affordability levels. The developer Alatus will guide the overall design and development of site. The Metropolitan Council provides much of the research about housing trends and needs in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Everyone’s goal should be to build a well-designed, diverse, and sustainable development. Arden Hills should finally produce its fair share of affordable housing.

What is the Metropolitan Council?

It is a policy-making board that guides the strategic growth of the entire Twin Cities metro area. The Council's mission is to foster efficient growth for regional prosperity and high quality of life for its residents. Its investments support economic vitality and competitiveness.

The Metropolitan Council has one appointed representative for each of 16 regions, plus a chairperson. Elected officials and citizens serve on key advisory committees to the Council. This allows them to share their unique expertise with the Council. Arden Hills is in Region 10. Other cities in Region 10 are Blaine (partial), Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, Shoreview, Spring Lake Park (partial). Our representative is Peter Lindstrom. More information about the Metropolitan Council is available here.

How does the Metropolitan Council influence housing decisions in Arden Hills?

It guides housing needs and challenges, primarily through its 2040 region-wide housing plan. Local governments, housing developers, community organizations, and other stakeholders participated in the plan. For more detail, watch a 2-minute video about the Council’s role in affordable housing. 

Are there guidelines for determining the amount of affordable housing a community should have?

Yes. The Metropolitan Council assigns each community an affordable housing goal. The formula for determining the goal has 3 factors:

1.   the amount of affordable housing needed for the whole metro area

2.   the amount of affordable housing that already exists in each community

3.   the ratio of low-wage jobs to low wage workers living in each community

Based on the formula, Arden Hills was given the goal of building 373 affordable units by 2030.

Source: Metropolitan Council Needs, Goals, Scores 

What is Arden Hills’ share of existing affordable housing in the region?

The Metropolitan Council’s map shows six levels of existing housing units that are affordable to households earning less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Arden Hills is at the second-lowest level. North Oaks is the only other community in Ramsey County with a lower share of affordable housing units. We can do better! 

What is Arden Hills’ ratio of low-wage jobs to residents who work in low-wage jobs, and why does it matter?

On this metric, Arden Hills is in the highest category. That means it is a net importer of low-wage workers because few of them can afford to live here. Here's the Metropolitan Council's map.


If there’s not enough affordable housing for low-wage workers, the city won’t be eligible for transit lines. If workers don’t have good transit or housing options, they’ll take jobs in other communities that do have those options. Finding workers for retail, food service and other jobs will be more difficult. We can do better! 

What is Arden Hills’ Housing Performance Score? 

The Metropolitan Council SCORES metric is on a scale of 0-100. Arden Hills has a score of 10. The score assesses and recognizes local efforts to develop and maintain housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households. Cities have a wide variety of programs and services they can leverage to help with the development of affordable housing. The 2021 SCORES reflect the policies, activities, and production of cities and townships in 2020. We can do better!

How does Arden Hills compare to other communities in creating affordable housing?

Do we have places to add affordable housing?

Besides the Rice Creek Commons development with its 160 acres devoted to housing, there are a small number of other potential sites. None of them offer anything close to the amount of housing that could be built at Rice Creek Commons. 


On November 25, 2019, the City adopted its 2040 Comprehensive Plan. In it, they identified at least two areas for potential affordable housing: 

In 2023, two market-rate senior housing developments have been completed on these sites. They represent lost opportunities to develop some affordable senior housing in Arden Hills.

We can do better!

Why is more housing density a good thing?

Modifying zoning rules to allow denser housing is the most effective way to increase the housing supply and ease our housing shortage.  Having more residents means that there are more employees available for employers, and that prospective employers are more confident that the employees they bring will be able to find housing.  It also means that there are more customers to support local businesses and attract new businesses.  It increases tax revenue for the city.  It also would help Arden Hills qualify for public transportation. Without greater density, the city will be at the back of the line for any type of transit.

Deeper Dive

Are there any City documents related to Rice Creek Commons that support having lower rather than higher housing density in Rice Creek Commons?

No. The July 2014 Alternative Urban Areawide Review and Mitigation Plan (AUAR), and a 2019 update, examined two Rice Creek Commons development scenarios.  The AUAR concluded that the Rice Creek Commons was capable of accommodating up to 2,500 housing units in the “Maximum Development Scenario.”  This number of units greatly exceeds the 1,460 units now included in the Rice Creek Commons Master Plan.  In fact, the 1,460 units are actually less than the minimum of 1,500 units projected in the AUAR’s other lower development “Zoning Scenario.”


A second document, the City’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan, prepared and adopted in 2019 and subsequently approved by the Metropolitan Council, includes an allocation of 373 new affordable housing units between 2021 and 2030.  This commitment would be satisfied by providing the 373 units across a range of different affordable housing income levels, primarily as part of Rice Creek Commons, the only undeveloped area of Arden Hills capable of meeting the need. 

Does Arden Hills already have substantial affordable housing?

Most inner-city and first- and second-ring suburbs in the Twin Cities have existing affordable housing, largely older and smaller housing units.  Attrition due to renovation or replacement has slowly diminished the number of these units, but some communities have actively sought more new affordable housing in recent years to increase their overall supply.


While Arden Hills has older, post-World War II housing stock, it has not recently added any significant new affordable housing.  It is now a built-out community with the exception of the 427-acre Rice Creek Commons property. Approximately 162 acres of the property are allocated for residential use.  In 2021, the Metropolitan Council determined that about 40% of Arden Hills housing stock was affordable. Our immediate neighbors compared more favorably – New Brighton at 61%, Shoreview at 43%, and Roseville at 60% (Metropolitan Council Existing Housing Assessment, May 2021.

 Will increased density of housing units add infrastructure costs?

Individual housing units are essentially infrastructure “neutral,’ irrespective of size or cost.  The same need for public service infrastructure must be met - streets, public safety, and utilities.  The only difference might be that a greater density of affordable units could create additional demand for the public services.  However, the cost of any additional capacity necessary to meet this demand would be offset by the increased property tax collections and utility revenue associated with more housing units.  In fact, the economy of scale may generate higher amounts than those otherwise derived from more expensive, but fewer, large housing units.

Will increased density contribute to “extreme” traffic congestion in a development that has limited street and access infrastructure?

The Master Plan was based on the 2014 TCAAP Final Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR) and Final Mitigation Plan prepared by the City and its consultants.  The AUAR analysis compared the proposed street and access infrastructure under two development scenarios, the Minimum Development Scenario (1,500 residential units) and the Maximum Development Scenario (2,500 residential units).  It determined that the projected traffic volumes for each scenario could be mitigated with essentially the same improvements, with the exception of two additional improvements to the I-35W and County H interchange in the Maximum Development Scenario. The 2019 AUAR Update again reviewed the two scenario outcomes and made no additional traffic-related recommendations to the earlier 2014 conclusions.