2021 Minneapolis City Council Housing Questionnaire: Ward 1

A coalition of local organizations sponsored this questionnaire to help voters understand where each candidate stands on issues that shape whether every person can find and afford a home in Minneapolis.

We collectively submitted, refined, and selected these questions and invited campaigns of all candidates to respond. We will continue to accept responses and thank those who have participated. Their responses are published verbatim.

The only party holding caucuses for Minneapolis races is the DFL. For more information about participating in the Minneapolis DFL Caucuses in April, see minneapolisdfl.org/. For information on the 2021 November elections, see https://vote.minneapolismn.gov/voters/calendar/.

Sponsors: Envision Community; IX (Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia); Neighbors for More Neighbors; NRRC; Wedge LIVE!; Zacah 


Candidate responses: 

  • Elliott Payne: responded
  • Kevin Reich – incumbent: responded
  • Tulley Kline: no response

Q1: In a city where more than half of people rent, what housing policies would you focus on to ensure that every Minneapolis resident has a safe, stable, affordable home?

Elliott Payne:

For me, equity is the single most important value — in all city policies, including housing. On City Council, my goal will be simple: Every single person who wants to make a home in Minneapolis should be able to do so. And for me, every policy solution that gets us toward that goal is on the table. 

One policy I believe we need urgently is rent stabilization. I joined with 8 other candidates for Minneapolis office to support the rent-stabilization proposals before the City Council right now. Rent stabilization is just one policy. It’s vital, and it’ll be a huge achievement, but it’s just a start. 

To decide which policy ideas to focus on, I want to talk to the people who are most affected by our affordable housing shortage — starting with the majority of our neighbors who rent. For policy expertise, I want to depend on the organizations who have been doing front-line work fighting for housing justice for a long time — folks like IX, Neighbors for More Neighbors, NRRC, and Zacah, among others. Organizations like yours have worked very hard to make this citywide conversation possible, and your expertise will point the way to housing justice for all of us.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

The city is engaged in city housing policies focused on production, housing trust funds, approving conduits for state and federal resources, and policies around stabilization. We are more focused than ever that those who rent have the resources they need. It is also important to continue making stronger relations with important partners in the area, such as the MPLS Public Housing Authority and making sure that we advance production of units in the 30% or below while also committed to policies they have a macro effect on.

Q2: Do you support rent stabilization, just cause protection, pay or quit, city-funded legal services for those facing eviction, and other tenant protections? How will you work to pass these policies?

Elliott Payne:

Most people who live in our city are renters. Even though renters make up the majority of Minneapolis residents, our city policies tend to reflect the interests of homeowners and especially the interests of landlords. In neighborhood organization meetings and at city hall, renters are often talked about as if they are not full members of our community—as if renting means they don’t care about their neighborhoods or build lasting relationships with neighbors. This false stereotype is the justification for prioritizing the interests of property owners, and we need our elected leaders to say clearly that renters are equal participants in creating our neighborhoods. 

Equal participation will mean creating strong protections that ensure renters are treated fairly by landlords and protected from arbitrary eviction and excessive rent increases that price them out of their homes. That’s why I support rent stabilization, just cause protection, pre-eviction notification requirements, and city-funded legal services for those facing eviction. Several progressive council members have been working to develop strong renter protections, and I look forward to working collaboratively with them to get these policies passed. Council members won’t be able to do it on our own, so I look forward to actively engaging and strategizing with organizations working on behalf of renters to organize widespread public support for these policies.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Yes. Since the beginning of my time on City Council, I have supported these protections and continue to work towards affordable housing for all. I am currently working on a couple projects to expand affordable housing as well an adaptive reuse housing project.

Q3: Encampments of unhoused people have become common on public land in Minneapolis in recent years. What will you do to protect the people who see encampments as their best housing option, to connect them to a safe and stable permanent home?

Elliott Payne:

The fact that encampments are the best option for many people in Minneapolis is a direct consequence of policy failures across multiple levels of government: skyrocketing housing costs, eviction processes that leave vulnerable renters unprotected, a lack of accessible and long-term treatment programs, and a lack of social support that leaves folks who are at risk of losing their homes isolated and at even greater risk for abuse and exploitation. This isn’t a problem Minneapolis can solve alone. But City Council can do much more to help. 

Most importantly, I believe City Council needs to work in active partnership with the county and state governments to coordinate the services and resources it takes to help people who are currently living in the encampments into permanent housing — in a way that addresses all of their underlying needs. I believe that coordinating function is a crucial function of municipal government. Beyond that, getting folks into appropriate and dignified housing is going to require that the city prioritize the development of SROs and other shared housing solutions.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Our level of challenge isn’t as great as other parts of the city, yet community stakeholders, institutions, parks and rec officials and housing division officials, have helped work to relocate encampments into housing. By working with code service officials, we were able to expand shelter spaces and expedite additional spaces. There is constant conversation between block leaders, safety liaisons and community organizers to make sure of clear communication lines between all parties.

Q4: SROs and rooming houses have historically been the most affordable homes available, and an important option for people transitioning out of homelessness. They were largely outlawed during zoning reforms decades ago, and nonprofits like Alliance Housing that manage some of the few remaining rooming houses say they do not have enough space. Would you vote to relegalize this housing option in all parts of Minneapolis?

Elliott Payne:

Absolutely. As I understand it, old laws outlawing SROs and rooming houses were largely intended to manage the “morals” of lower-income people. That wasn’t okay in the past, and it’s certainly not an appropriate function of city government today. For me, there’s no reason in the world we can’t make single-room housing an option for people who need it.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Yes absolutely, I believe SROs are an underappreciated historical type of housing. We are looking to advance cluster development models with support space in Ward 1 and throughout Minneapolis. Additionally, I am very interested in advancing the next design for wraparound services to congregate space and join with the traditional SRO small unit model.

Q5: Minneapolis has enacted a number of reforms recently to expand access to more housing types in all neighborhoods — including legalizing ADUs, triplexes, and apartments in some places they’d previously been banned. Do you support this work? If so, what are some ways you’d build on it as a member of the city council?

Elliot Payne:

Absolutely. The more kinds of housing we have, the more people will be able to make homes here. I believe the city can be even more flexible about making more kinds of housing possible. 

I have neighbors who would benefit enormously from ADUs — folks who want space for relatives and friends to live nearby, folks who want to look after aging parents. Triplexes and apartments — provided enough of them are truly and perpetually affordable at 30% AMI — are useful too. 

Right here in Ward 1, there’s a vacant City-owned lot at 28th and Johnson just crying out for a multifamily apartment building. It’s on the 4, and it’s right near the Johnson Street merchants. There’s no reason that lot should still be vacant. Neighbors have been asking for affordable housing at that site for years, and so far no progress has been made. That’s not right, and I will work to fix it as the CM for Ward 1.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Not only was I directly involved with drafting the national recognized policy framework, I worked with the committee that translated legal zoning and licensing regulations.

Q6: Affordable housing funding is precious, and public subsidy often builds homes that are still too expensive for the people struggling the most, with studio apartment rents over $1,000, and 4 bedroom rents up to $1800. How would you use zoning, TIF, or other city-controlled tools to legalize less expensive homes so that affordable housing funding can support the lowest income residents of Minneapolis?

Elliott Payne:

We can’t address the housing crisis we’re in without building more homes. Increasing the supply of housing does lower rents in the long term, as other cities have proven. But building more homes addresses just one part of the problem. City policies also need to help people who are being priced out of their homes right now. Just as important, City Council needs to create policies that directly address the shameful legacies of redlining, restrictive covenants, and the devaluation of property owned by people of color. 

The urgency of the crisis means we can no longer invest in housing policies we know to be ineffective — like our city’s attempt to increase the affordable housing stock by requiring a certain number of affordable units in new apartment buildings. Often, the “affordable” units in these new apartment buildings are too expensive for the families who need them most, and existing regulations often allow developers to convert the previously “affordable” units into market-rate apartments, displacing lower-income families from their homes. We have to rethink our approach to increasing the number of affordable units in our city–and ensure that any new units that are built are built with the needs of those who are most at risk of displacement and removal in mind. 

I believe zoning, TIF funds, and other City policies have to direct public funds where they’re needed most, and affordable housing is where housing funds are needed most — creating housing that serves the needs of the most cost-burdened folks. Prioritizing policies that make housing affordable to people who make 30 percent of area median income — for Minneapolis in 2020, that was annual income of $21,700 a year for a single person, or $31,000 for a family of four — is a practical benchmark to shoot for in housing policies.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

We must proactively seek out partners and sight opportunities to create multi benefit projects that meet our affordability goals and transit and environment goals. My hook and ladder project was the first to have an affordable apartment that is a certified structure and is a homeless transitional. I believe that affordable units should still be nice homes.

Q7: Our city has grown by 53,000 people in the last 9 years. Do you believe that Minneapolis should make space for more people as our city grows? If so, what is the best way to do that and also ensure that BIPOC communities and people who made Minneapolis their home before the current growth can stay in their communities if they want?

Elliott Payne:

Absolutely. Everyone who wants to make a home in Minneapolis should be able to. That’s a matter of values, and also a matter of civic strategy — the more people who live here, the stronger and better and more creative our city will be. To scale our city to the size we need to without displacing the neighbors we already love, we need Minneapolis policies to think of housing across the whole city, at every income level.

To make room for new neighbors without displacing existing ones, we need City policies to incentivize mixed-income neighborhoods, everywhere. Putting poor people in ghettos is morally abhorrent and bad policy. (I grew up on the north side of Milwaukee, so I’m speaking from experience.) Allowing the wealthiest neighborhoods to refuse new development puts disproportionate housing pressure on less-wealthy neighborhoods, who have less economic leverage in negotiations with developers. When developers can drive the process, the projects they build are likely to lead to widespread displacement that changes the character of a community. We need to use the full force of City resources to make housing affordable in every ward, across the city — at every income level.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Yes, I am pro-growth. We cannot deny the fact that growth is happening when we formulate policies and plans, but more than just recognize, we must embrace it for the advantages it can bring when done well. Recognizing that growth without intentional policies that are mindful of displacement dynamics that occur need to be of paramount consideration. To that end, we need to proactively and intentionally preserve and invest in areas to ensure access for BIPOC communities for housing and more. With Cultural Corridors, the motivation wasn’t just to recognize “feened” spaces, but was to counteract in affirmative ways, displacement, the access to goods and services, general access to economic opportunity, and a community system that supports its people.

Q8: The city has the ability to pass a public housing levy. Would you vote to use that levy to the maximum extent?

Elliott Payne:

Yes, and I’d want the funds raised by that levy to benefit the communities that need them most. For example, we already have funding sources to subsidize housing affordable at 80 percent AMI. Perhaps a levy could subsidize housing all the way to 30 percent.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Yes, as referenced earlier public housing is predicated on adequate resources.

Q9: Given our history of redlining, exclusionary zoning, freeways, slum clearance, and urban renewal, what is your vision for an equitable and restorative way of building a better Minneapolis for all?

Elliott Payne:

The disparities of wealth along racial lines in our city—and our state—are shameful. It’s long past time that we acknowledge the role government policies played in creating those disparities and work to address those harms. For most families, homeownership is the primary means of generating wealth. BIPOC folks have been historically excluded from the benefits of homeownership, which has closed off the possibility of the generational transfer of wealth. We have a moral obligation to right that wrong. The city must take action to increase home ownership among BIPOC communities if we are going to make progress toward achieving wealth equity.

One exciting new program is the Perpetually Affordable Housing program, which allows the city to build, purchase, and rehab housing stock specifically for sale to low-income families at affordable prices, enabled through subsidies from the city. This program has the potential to help families build wealth and is a step toward repairing the harm that has been done. As a council member, I’ll work to increase funding for this program and any others that help us to close the racial wealth and home ownership gaps in our city.

It’s also essential that as the city takes on more responsibility for developing new housing units, we prioritize working with BIPOC developers on new construction projects. This is an additional and important way that we can begin to repair the economic harms that have been done through city policy and work towards wealth equity in our community.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

In my 20/40 plan, we discussed how past policies have impacted our neighborhoods in a negative way. Therefore, the importance of allowing flexibility in communities that have been defined by these past policies is important. By knowing what we damaged, we can make sure new policies preserve older homes, move away from single occupancy car travel and work towards multimodal transportation. We must preserve the locals of the community and target resources into areas that need it most exclusively.

Q10: If there are any other thoughts you’d like to add, please use this space to do so.

Elliott Payne:

As a new candidate, I know that I have a lot to learn about housing policy. My hope is that I can engage with and learn from your organizations about what is necessary to achieve housing justice in our city. I look forward to building relationships with each of you and all of your organizations.

Kevin Reich – incumbent:

Our city is in the middle of an urban movement. As laid out in my 20/40 plan, it is important that our city grows inclusively while economically empowering the city as well as the communities in it. I am diligently working on specific things in funding and shifting guidelines to be more targeted towards affordable housing. Our community has great building blocks already, but there is more work to be done.