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On the Issues: Supporting Renters

October 9, 2017

Minneapolis renters make up roughly half the city’s population. Renters are workers that drive our local economy, parents raising the next generation, neighbors dedicated to improving our community, and more. In fact, I’d venture to guess most of us have rented before even if we don’t rent now. Yet renters’ needs are frequently overlooked at City Hall -- a problem that has implications for every resident of our great city.

 

I’m passionate about the power of government to be a force for good, and believe it’s up to our elected officials to make sure all Minneapolis residents have their basic needs met. Safe, stable, affordable housing is at the heart of this philosophy. It’s the bedrock of a thriving community. It boosts our local economy. It improves education outcomes for children. It keeps our neighbors healthier. It is the fundamental right I fight for daily as Policy Director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.  

 

In recent years, a housing crunch has gripped Minneapolis’ economy. Our population is growing, rents are rising, and investors are eager to scoop up valuable real estate -- often prioritizing their bottom lines over tenants. We see a disturbing trend of displacement, especially among working families. For a city that prides itself as a progressive leader, Minneapolis is falling short when it comes to protecting renters and nurturing a healthy housing economy.

 

Despite renters’ commanding share of the city’s population, much of the current policy -- which determines where and how we address our serious housing needs -- primarily reflects the interests of single-family homeowners. These voices that have historically been the loudest, but that doesn’t mean they align with the best interests of our evolving community. If we want more vibrant and inclusive communities, we need a City Council that thinks bigger.

 

Too many of our neighbors spend too much on housing -- half of Minneapolis renters put more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. That cuts into their budget for other critical costs, including medicine, transportation, utilities, and even basic necessities like food. This also fuels racial disparities that have plagued Minneapolis for far too long. We need city leaders who won’t ignore housing needs, and who will proactively treat our housing economy as a primary indicator of our overall success.

 

Renters are on the front lines of that. In our budgeting process, we need to value the true costs and savings that come with safe, stable, and affordable housing for all. This includes improved employment, education, and health outcomes -- all of which, down the line, save taxpayers money.

 

 

I will prioritize substantial new investment in existing funds that both support the development of new affordable units as well as the preservation of existing ones. I stand behind inclusionary zoning, which ensures affordable units are included in new construction. I support policy that levels the playing field when a property comes up for sale, carving out extra time for the city and qualified nonprofits to explore the opportunity of purchasing these naturally occurring affordable housing complexes themselves.

 

We also need to invest in tenants’ education and support, especially crucial considering our substantial renter population. It is essential that renters have a voice. An ongoing focus on landlord-tenant relations enables the city to quickly identify bad actors and resolve issues that may jeopardize renters’ housing stability. As a former landlord myself, I know this proactive approach will provide property owners more stability as well. It will weed out irresponsible players while supporting compliant ones. It’s a win-win.

 

There is no singular solution that will fix our housing crisis and adequately protect our renters. But with my expertise in housing policy, I know well the patchwork of strategies that can work together to prevent displacement, keep families and communities on stronger footing, and still support growth citywide. I will work closely with Ward 11 renters to make meaningful changes that reflect their needs.

 

Minneapolis needs leaders who know housing, like me. It needs a visionary City Council that thinks creatively about how to close gaps in our housing economy, especially for renters -- and how to do it now. It need advocates who know the progress we’ve made so far represents just a fraction of the work yet to be done. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves.


 

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