2017 Candidate Questionnaire: Stephanie Gasca – City Council, Ward 4

Stephanie Gasca

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Question: How do you think the market rate housing development of the last several years has impacted Minneapolis?

Market rate housing development is making the city unaffordable for the hardest working people. In North Minneapolis the path we have been on is that people who do not live here, who have money like investors, all they see is dollar signs in our community. And since they have money their voices are the loudest and the ones being heard. As the dollars signs start rolling, our community members are pushed out because it’s unaffordable. What this means is that everyday people can’t plant their roots, and no generational wealth is created. So many in our community end up as renters, or homeless, or housing unstable, and our children suffer because of it. These are the folks that need the most attention and get the least. Children have parents who are working the most hours for the least money. As my daughter Kennedy described, “I feel sorry for the kids in my school who have to move all the time. We have been in this house since I was one year old and I have too many memories here that I don’t want to leave.” Even an 8 year old understands the instability in these policies.

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?

When I bought a home in 2009 I was able to leverage city programs. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Her friend’s dad was a realtor and the mortgage broker helped along in the process. I was intimidated and that is the first barrier. I learned that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. After working at Wells Fargo home mortgage I would notice folks on social media talking about how hard rent is, homeownership would be better and cheaper. However as a community we have faced generations of disenfranchisement and inequality. For example, people of color (POC) remain weary because of redlining and biased mortgage denials. The consequence of this lived bias is that we don’t think we can qualify because many of us have been turned away. I had the help of someone to navigate me through the process and the anxiety I had pursuing something that never seemed possible. In the end it was one of the best decisions I have made. So, I want to work directly with potential homeowners to help them navigate the process and the sense of doubt like I had. With this level of engagement in place I expect more people of color can become homeowners.

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? 

The current Comprehensive Plan seems limited in scope and vision. While lip service is paid to affordability references to development align with conventional methods. There needs to be a greater mix of tactics that would include support by the city to create co-ops for example and offer special programs to support the fourplexes. We need the best solutions not just the same solutions. We need to re-open the planning process and expand the number of people participating. It won’t be a passive process but rather I will work with organizations to build up volunteers from the community to be trained and have awareness of policy and language to make decisions. This committee could have a budget to bring in national leaders on housing and possibly allow committee members to travel to sites of innovation. It is an opportunity to really lead for the benefit the residents of the City of Minneapolis.

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?

In Northside we have few cafes and corner stores. What I hear from neighbors and friends is that there is limited access to bank loans and even less resources designed to help us navigate the complexity of the municipal system and filing a business. The city needs to have a stronger presence in areas of need. More access to resources so we can start entrepreneurial projects.

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?

Earned sick and safe time is a good example of how this could work. Everyone was at the table trying to understand the problem and understand the needs. Even with this inclusive approach I was the only woman of color as an alternate and I couldn’t vote. We can’t play progressive when we don’t give people the power to both understand the process and make decisions on policy that affects our futures. In my view it’s less about the policy and more about who is shaping that policy.