Minnesota suburbs have been experiencing a boom in minority population growth during the last ten years. Communities of color and new immigrant communities now number in the thousands in some cities. In other cities, they’ve grown so much, the minority population has become the majority.
On March 21, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, along with members from the New American Academy, African Career, Education and Resource and other community organizations met for a strategy roundtable at Rondo Community Library, to discuss the problems associated with these population shifts and strategies to effectively combat the equity problems these growing populations face.
“This event was about bringing people together to talk about the shifting demographic in the region — people of color moving out to the suburbs,” said Ebony Adedayo, a member with the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability who facilitated the discussion. “They’re lacking access to a lot of opportunities.”
Adedayo, who lives in Shoreview, believes the biggest issue right now is a lack of transportation. While she lives on a major street in Shoreview, there isn’t access to a bus line, says Adedayo, which she believes hinders other opportunities, such as access to healthcare, employment and even education.
Another topic discussed was affordable housing, or a lack thereof — an ongoing issue with suburbs.
“There’s no affordable housing in Eden Prairie,” said Asad Aliweyd, Executive Director at the New American Academy. “We are growing, our needs are also growing.”
According to Aliweyd, Somalis make up roughly ten percent of the population in Eden Prairie now, at about 3,500 and still growing. (If his numbers hold true, that’s right around six percent)
Up until last year, private renters accepted Section 8, but recently simply stopped, says Aliweyd. Why this is happening is unknown, he says, but he hopes to convince the city to create public or city owned-apartments, which would have to accept Section 8, to make up for it.
“There’s not enough apartments like that,” explained Aliweyd, “I’m afraid many people may move out of Eden Prairie because of that.”
Despite slow progress in the logistics, some believe simply opening up communication about race is important, especially in areas that were previously predominantly white upper-middle class.
“[We’re] having helpful conversations about race,” said Deb Stehlin, pastor at Light of the World church in Apple Valley, another suburb experiencing a demographic shift.
Last January on Martin Luther King Day, Stehlin, along with other colleagues, organized an event that brought together Apple Valley residents, superintendents, city officials and other community leaders for the sole purpose of discussing race — something she’d like to see become less taboo.
“People live lives of isolation and don’t know their neighbors,” said Stehlin, “and that is an issue.”