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Question: How do you think the market rate housing development of the last several years has impacted Minneapolis?
The current housing crisis reflects a broader crisis of affordability facing working class people. In Minneapolis, rents have increased 15% since 2009 while the vacancy rate dropped from 5% to 2.6% in the same period. Despite the fact that Minneapolis has added 7,000 units to the rental market in the last two years, much of this development is overly-centralized in neighborhoods with rising property values and priced beyond the reach of working class people. A recent study by CURA at the University of Minnesota found that there is not a single Minneapolis neighborhood where housing is considered “affordable” for a median-income black family. Slumlords like Stephan Franz exploit this situation, raking in massive profits banking on the fact that his tenants can’t find an alternative.
The other side of affordable housing development is income, access, and livability. For two years, as the Executive Director of 15 Now Minnesota, I campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr with no exemptions. This would benefit 71,000 workers, the majority of whom are young people, immigrants, women, and people of color: groups that have the hardest time finding affordable housing in Minneapolis. State cuts to mass transit, social programs, and welfare benefits can undermine even the best conceived housing policy. Trump’s billionaire-backed agenda, which includes threats to dismantle Obamacare, union rights, unemployment benefits, etc, will make the crisis of affordability in Minneapolis worse.
Big developers often assure us that all we need to do is rely on the so-called “free market” to resolve the housing crisis. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand: let developers build, and at some point, magically, prices will come down and create housing affordability. I support building more units, but a recent Star Tribune article stated that of the 5,600 rental units planned in the Metro Area, only one in ten will be “affordable” for working class people. Without robust renters’ organizations bringing disenfranchised groups into the planning process, the current trajectory for housing development will not meet the needs of working class people, renters, and students in Minneapolis.
Question: What policies will you pursue to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing in Minneapolis? Since state financing for affordable housing is limited, what additional funding sources would you seek? What are some alternative policies you’d pursue to remove barriers to housing affordability which would compensate for this lack of funding?
While Trump and his allies in the Minnesota State government are fighting for massive tax cuts for the billionaire class, I support building the power of tenants to influence housing policy statewide. But if the State fails to fund affordable housing, Minneapolis must raise those funds locally by exploring ways of taxing big business and the super-rich. Many cities use policies like “linkage fees,” essentially a small tax on high-end residential and commercial development that goes directly towards funding more affordable housing.
Too often, housing policy in Minneapolis is shaped by profit-driven developers and people who own mansions, leaving renters, students, and the working poor out of the conversation. I will be a voice for tenants and working class communities, and I pledge not to accept campaign contributions from big developers. In cases where tenants face economic eviction, Minneapolis should increase relocation assistance and ensure that renters get first right of receivership. I would continue to work with groups like Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (Renters United for Justice) and other housing organizations to ensure that those who are often most affected, but underrepresented, have a voice in City Hall. Empowering these groups is a key way to build the type of movement necessary to fight for more funding for affordable housing at the state and national level, and resist further budget cuts.
I also support using every opportunity to implement initiatives to build affordable housing locally. For example, I support implementing inclusionary zoning to require that new development includes affordable housing to the maximum legal extent. Instead of further privatizing the existing stock of city-owned affordable housing, like Glendale Townhomes, Minneapolis should provide a public option, expanding access to affordable housing by building thousands of high-quality, city-owned housing units, rented at below-market rates, financed by selling municipal bonds and making use of currently vacant city land.
Discrimination remains an invisible barrier to housing for many. I support Council Member Glidden’s proposal to end Section 8 discrimination, and City Hall should explore stronger anti-discrimination ordinances to ensure that oppressed groups do not face de facto restriction from accessing affordable housing. A 2013 HUD report showed African-American and Latino prospective renters were shown 10% fewer units than whites. A 2011 report showed that 19% of transgender people reported having been refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity/expression.
Question: The vast majority of Minneapolis is zoned exclusively for single-family homes, while most of the units we currently build are in large apartment buildings in or near downtown. Single-family homes and large apartment buildings tend to be more expensive per unit than missing middle housing (for example, a fourplex). How do we use the currently ongoing update to the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan to allow a mix of housing types across Minneapolis that are less expensive to rent, own, and build?
Remove antiquated ordinances designed to strengthen the nuclear family, like not allowing more than three unrelated occupants to live in a single family home, and lift restrictions on cooperative housing.
Minneapolis should adjust its zoning regulations to plan for increased middle density housing, especially in strategic transit and transportation corridors. By emphasizing that these units are high-quality, city-owned housing units, rented at below-market rates, Minneapolis can ensure increased affordable housing options. Every zoning change is an opportunity to require increased affordable housing, including inclusionary zoning, which should be incorporated into the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan.
Do you think there’s a place for light commercial spaces like small cafes and corner stores in neighborhood interiors? Do you believe there are other areas where restrictive zoning has led to worse outcomes for neighborhoods?
Yes, there’s absolutely space for light commercial spaces in neighborhood interiors. This is especially critical in neighborhoods that qualify as “food deserts,” etc. Yes, the current model of zoning often comes at the expense of students, renters, and working class people.
Are there any other issues related to housing or zoning that you believe are important enough to address as a city council member? What specific policy goals would you pursue in this area?
Minneapolis should have every tool at its disposal to provide affordable housing, which is why I’m calling for ending state preemption of rent control. City council should immediately pass a resolution demanding the state government remove the ban on rent control, and bring a legal challenge to it. Most importantly, tenants, unions, and community organizations need to organize and build pressure to demand an end to the undemocratic state ban. By rent control, I mean linking rent increases to inflation. Under a citywide rent control policy, rent would still go up. Landlords would still be able to make profits and finance operations and maintenance. But the sudden and massive rent hikes – and the economic evictions that come with them – would be prohibited.