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When a Suburb Tries to Densify, Forget ‘Minnesota Nice’

Outside the Twin Cities, housing advocates are fighting with local governments, reluctant neighbors—and, occasionally, each other.
Michelle Halonen with daughters Madilyn, right, and Ellie, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The Twin City suburb is one of several in the metro area that's making efforts to keep housing costs under control.
Michelle Halonen with daughters Madilyn, right, and Ellie, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The Twin City suburb is one of several in the metro area that's making efforts to keep housing costs under control. Jim Mone/AP

In late April, some residents of Normandale Lake Estates, an apartment complex in Bloomington, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis, received a letter informing them that their leases were being terminated and they’d have to move out by June 1. New owners had recently bought the building and planned to upgrade the units. Existing tenants were told they could prequalify to return, but many suspect the new rents will be higher than they can afford. In the meantime, they’re scrambling to find new places to live.

For some of the displaced Bloomington renters, this isn’t the first time they’ve been forced out of their homes. A little over two years ago, in the nearby suburb of Richfield, new owners purchased an apartment complex called Crossroads at Penn. They renamed it Concierge, renovated the units, and priced out hundreds of families. Some of those Crossroads tenants, like Lisa Jones, who relies on a federal housing voucher for herself and her two grandchildren, and Linda Soderstrom, also on federal housing subsidy, moved from Richfield to the Normandale Lake Estates. Now they’ve been pushed out once more.