2017 Candidate Questionnaire: Tom Hoch – Mayor

Tom Hoch

(Click here to return to 2017 candidate survey main page)

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

The impact of market rate housing on our city has been mixed. Having more people living in our city is positive from various environmental, social and economic perspectives. But this development needs to be balanced with our need for affordable, work-force housing as well. As we attract new residents, we must be mindful that we do not simultaneously displace those who were here before. In all development discussions, current residents must be engaged and their active participation in decision-making enabled if we wish to effectively address potential gentrification.

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?

The lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis and it appears in many forms. Housing can become unaffordable when previously affordable housing inventory is converted to market rate housing, when property taxes increase too much, forcing long time homeowners to move or young families to exit to more affordable suburbs, or when the marketplace is simply unresponsive to the need. Addressing our affordable housing challenge must be addressed on a long-term basis (30 year increments) and must have as a primary goal unit-based financial support that ensures the creation of housing opportunities throughout the City. Minneapolis should convene for-profit and non-profit developers, as well as public sector providers like the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, to confirm best practices and to set specific targets for addressing the backlog and creating strategies for moving forward. It should also regularly report its success to the community, in real time.

Assuming that our prospects for financial assistance at the federal or state levels will be limited for the near future (although I would definitely advocate for full funding of our Section 8 and low-rent public housing programs at the federal level), I will pursue:

  • A substantial increase in city provided project-based assistance in my proposed budget (currently, the City spends just 1% of its operating budget in providing affordable housing)
  • The adoption of inclusionary zoning
  • A targeted homeownership program that will enable those historically left out of the housing market to purchase housing
  • Collaboration with leaders in surrounding communities to encourage them to develop a range of affordable housing. Minneapolis cannot be successful if we don’t bring along the surrounding communities to embrace their role in addressing the need for affordable housing.

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? 

I have several ideas about how we might address our middle housing opportunities. Generally speaking, density should increase the closer one gets to the Downtown core. In our neighborhoods, not every block will embrace density, especially where there is currently quality housing already in place. The city must be clear at the beginning of the comprehensive planning process about its social policies and what it is seeking to achieve, and then guide neighborhoods to develop responsive strategies for providing a range of housing choices. To help develop the conversation, I would advocate for neighborhoods to be provided with the tools to survey or otherwise secure feedback from as many current residents as possible about future housing that people feel is needed for the neighborhood, either for current residents or others, taking into account the City’s policy objectives.

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 is most definitely a place for light commercial development in our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are the essential building blocks of our city and need to be able to weave together the elements that make them unique, welcoming, and thriving. I grew up in Minneapolis and frequently went to a “corner store” to purchase small grocery items for our family. In this small commercial node, there was a soda fountain and a bakery as well as pharmacy. The experience of walking to those stores, greeting neighbors, and knowing the store owner were all part of that neighborhood feeling. They also promoted civility and connection.

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?

The city’s goal should be support residents in creating the neighborhood that best reflects their aspirations. To me, nothing is more exciting than the prospect of supporting the uniqueness of each neighborhood, and zoning decisions and housing programs must be sufficiently flexible to accommodate these varied circumstances. That said, gentrification is clearly challenging us. Our development planning and community engagement efforts must seriously address how we best ensure equitable development so that our city is a place that everyone can call home. We should also explore the use of land trusts and cooperative housing models to encourage neighborhood specific development and as a tool to address gentrification.