Building equity in our communities means recognizing shifting demographics

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Building sustainable communities is about reflecting what community looks like – now and in the future. And the faces of our Minnesota communities are changing, rapidly. Especially our suburban communities.

When we think about our suburban communities here in Minnesota – we often think about Eden Prairie, Fridley, Maple Grove, Eagan, Burnsville – I could go on, but you get the idea.

We also tend to think of these communities as primarily white, affluent and mostly single-family. What we don’t think about are the growing minority populations that are happening within these communities.

In the last decade, some of Minnesota’s largest cities have seen significant population shifts. In places like Brooklyn Park, they have seen almost half of their population change. While this one may not be surprising – place like Eagan, Woodbury and Shakopee are.

(Source: Minnesota Department of Administration. Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis. Office of the State Demographer)

Why is this important to think about? Because what your community looks like determines its needs. What it needs changes the economics of the community, it’s housing needs, it’s transportation needs and this in turns affects how we spend our public dollars.

And you may ask yourself why this should even matter? Why should the color of our community matter? Why and how does it even affect those things – it shouldn’t – right? Primarily, because here in Minnesota we have such disparity in income, educational achievement and home ownership between white and brown. While we are leading the nation in low unemployment, high rates of home ownership and high graduation rates – in our communities of color – this is just not the case. And, as these communities grow and move out beyond the urban core, we need to plan ahead.

Our challenge is how we chose to address these factors. Do we continue to develop our communities as we always have or do we acknowledge this change and work towards equity for everyone who lives there?

The Met Council is looking at these questions. Chairwoman Susan Haigh’s State of the Region address considered these very issues. We must think about developing our communities with an equity lens and this means taking a good look at who lives there and what they need to thrive.