Affordable Housing & Homelessness
Stable and affordable housing is a lynchpin for the security, prosperity, and well-being of Minneapolis residents. There are too many residents of our city sleeping on the streets and even more who are working multiple jobs and skipping meals just to cover the rent. Lower-income residents who are able to find affordable housing have little choice of where to live in the city as a result of NIMBYism and intentional segregation that has concentrated affordable housing investments in specific neighborhoods that typically also receive lower investments in transit, education, and economic development.
Minneapolis is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that will continue to grow worse every day. But we can change that course. To give Minneapolis a fresh start we need effective leadership with a clear vision and plan for simultaneously improving the affordability of housing, the quality of that affordable housing, and the mobility of lower-income residents to choose where in the city they live. We also need leadership that will take direct action. Minneapolis can look to solutions employed by other municipalities across the country, and then create a Minneapolis approach that uniquely addresses the challenges and opportunities facing our communities.
Solving Minneapolis’ affordable housing crisis is less about acquiring the know-how and more about exercising the leadership to form coalitions, create political will, and execute a well-developed plan. We need leadership that recognizes that there is no greater investment in the economic development of our city than affordable housing that puts everyone in proximity to the opportunities they need to thrive. That is what I pledge to offer as Mayor of Minneapolis.
My vision and plan include:
Preserving and Creating Affordable Housing Units
Dramatically increase funding for affordable housing. I am proud that, as a Minneapolis City Council Member, I successfully led the push to increase the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to a record level of more than $10 million, but this is not nearly enough. With state and federal cuts to low-income tax credits and Community Development Block Grant funding, Minneapolis will need to step up and pull together a coalition of willing metro municipalities. I advocate for Minneapolis setting aside a percentage of the tax revenue received from increases in certain properties valued at $300,000 or more for a special fund exclusively for affordable housing. By capturing this value, working with surrounding jurisdictions to do the same, and subsequently putting our money where it is most needed, we can attack this affordable housing crisis head-on.
Create more deeply affordable housing in areas with greater economic opportunities. While it is great that Minneapolis created affordable housing for people at 50-60% area median income, the city needs to start creating more housing that is deeply affordable, closer to 30% of area median income or even lower. The city should also emphasize locating this housing in areas that have greater economic opportunities. The importance of deeply affordable housing is also critical in providing an additional rung on the ladder to allow people experiencing homelessness to secure stable housing, as addressed in-depth in our section on homelessness below.
Increase the timeframe during which housing must be kept affordable. When Minneapolis subsidizes the development of affordable housing, it also requires that housing to remain affordable for 15 to 20 years. After that period lapses, however, the housing can be flipped to market-rate, putting us on a revolving treadmill of trying to build more affordable housing to keep up with that which we are losing. I support making critical investments to extend that period of time to 30 years or longer so that our affordable housing does not expire at such an alarming rate.
Build more affordable housing in wealthy and predominantly white neighborhoods. Minneapolis has a long tradition of concentrating affordable housing in areas where the least economic opportunities exist, resulting in the segregation of lower-income residents who are predominantly of color, while limiting the affordable options in whiter, more affluent neighborhoods. Sadly, while the rhetoric may have changed, the policy and practice has not. As the Council Member for the 3rd Ward, I fought, and continue to fight, for affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods, including affordable housing exclusively for those with a felony record trying to rebuild their lives. I am proud that my ward has seen more city-supported affordable housing projects than any other majority-white ward, and I want to expand this approach citywide as mayor.
Fund the purchase of at-risk affordable housing to keep it affordable. Building more affordable housing is a must, but so is protecting the stock of naturally-occurring affordable housing that we already have, especially in order to minimize the displacement of lower-income tenants from their homes and neighborhoods. The city should help responsible organizations that own affordable housing units to purchase additional units from the naturally occurring stock as they become available for sale.
Increase funding in the budget for public housing. Building more affordable and market-rate housing of all kinds is necessary to solving the affordable housing crisis, but public housing is a critical tool for providing extremely affordable housing that can remain affordable for the long term.
Increase the stock of affordable owner-occupied multi-family housing. Homeownership plays a critical role in building inter-generational wealth. I support increasing investments in community land trusts to create and maintain affordable owner-occupied housing. Furthermore, to decrease the demand pressure on existing owner-occupied multi-family units that drives up these units’ prices, we must add to the supply. I am proud to have led a legislative effort to change the state law to allow for more owner-occupied units to be built.
Support green affordable housing. Efforts to improve the environmental sustainability of housing should not be treated as amenities that are only affordable in high-end developments. The city should invest in subsidizing the up-front costs of renewable energy and energy efficiency installments in affordable housing units, as well as the use of greener and safer building materials. This is essential as a matter of environmental justice, and makes good long-term economic sense as the cost of fossil fuel-based energy continues to increase.
Fighting for Pro-Density Policies and Growth
Exclusionary zoning and density policies created the housing shortage that is the backbone of our current affordable housing crisis and the racial and socioeconomic segregation plaguing Minneapolis. To make Minneapolis a city where all neighborhoods are open to all residents, we need to allow more height, higher-quality builds, and more units so that we aren't depressing the natural housing supply and driving up the cost of housing for residents who can't afford it.
Undo exclusionary zoning designations. I want Minneapolis to move away from zoning designations that keep low-income residents out of certain neighborhoods. Minneapolis is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country, and the city’s zoning code—and our unwillingness to fix it—has done more to limit the spatial mobility and economic opportunity of lower-income residents, who are predominantly of color, than almost any other policy on our books.
Decrease minimum lot sizes. The first large-lot zoning requirements in the country were originally written to exclude lower-income people of color from certain neighborhoods. Unfortunately, they succeeded in Minneapolis. I will fight to reduce minimum lot sizes as a key means of reversing this trend.
Phase-out parking minimums. I support phasing out requirements that new buildings provide parking because they substantially increase the cost of housing. Costs associated with parking are passed on as higher rent to people who need homes and can’t afford paying more to subsidize additional parking for those who can afford multiple cars.
Increase maximum occupancy limits. More people should be allowed to live together than currently are allowed by city law. Restrictive occupancy limits based on outdated conceptions of what a 'family' is supposed to look like often make life challenging for immigrant families, and I support changing these laws.
Amend floor area ratio maximums. I want to amend floor area ratio maximums (FARs) that limit smart housing solutions. In doing so, we can move beyond boring, bulky architecture, while making substantial public realm improvements and adding green space.
End Chronic Homelessness Within 5 Years
Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to call home. While investments have been made to mitigate some of the problems of homelessness, we have not taken sufficiently bold action to give people experiencing homelessness the tools they need to obtain stable, affordable housing. About 70% of our homeless population have at least one job and 30% have multiple, but they still can't afford a home because the cost gap between a homeless shelter and low-income housing is too vast, even with a job.
Ending homelessness is not only the just thing to do, it is also financially expedient. The cost to the city of a person living on the street is around $40,000 a year -- nearly 3 times the cost of giving them housing. Through inclusive Housing First policies, Utah was able to cut chronic homelessness almost to zero. Minneapolis should aspire to do the same for our most vulnerable residents.