2021 Minneapolis City Council Housing Questionnaire: Ward 9

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: 

  • Al Flowers, Jr.: no response
  • Carmen Means: no response
  • Haji Yussef: no response
  • Jason Chavez: no response
  • Michael Moore: responded
  • Rita Ortega:  responded; on April 28 2021 ended their candidacy for City Council

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?

Michael Moore: Rent control, landlord and rental policies and enforcements, Zoning restructuring to allow for a significant increase in affordable housing rental units, addressing the homelessness issue with the idea of a long-term and viable solution, intelligent land use and development, policing reforms and restructures. https://weneedmoore.org/affordable-housing

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Everyone deserves a home and should live with dignity and respect. Rita will always fight for access to housing options that actually work for renters, seniors, people with fixed incomes, disabled folks, working people, and communities of color. As a longtime Section 8 resident and someone who has experienced homelessness firsthand, Rita knows that having access to government-subsidized housing has saved her life, and can transform life for individuals and communities. In order to ensure that every Minneapolis resident has a safe, stable, and affordable home we must expand public housing, fully fund Section 8, and pass universal rent control.

Healthy neighborhoods have a mix of renters and homeowners. We must invest in initiatives that increase homeownership among historically underrepresented populations such as communities of color, while ensuring that development does not lead to displacement as our city continues to grow. Rita also wants to increase investment in cooperative housing models and community land trusts to create more equitable access to housing. She also is an advocate for TOPA, passing a Tenants Bill of Rights, the Right of First Refusal, and inclusionary zoning policies.

Additionally, given the rise of unsheltered homelessness amid the COVID19 pandemic, we must prioritize housing our unsheltered neighbors. Hotels can be purchased by the city or county to provide short-term shelter for unhoused folks, and we must simultaneously invest in long-term solutions to keep them in their homes.

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?

Michael Moore: I support ALL the tenant services and protections mentioned above. I have studied the current laws as well as the new proposals and charter amendments, etc. I my opinion, the efforts of the city council are often politically based appeals to voters, and not always the most intelligent possible solutions for our entire city long-term. What I would try to do is force a more inclusive discussion with all parties involved. Make use of the many current dedicated tenant service organizations, nonprofits and advocacy groups and the decades of work they have already done. There are fair and reasonable strategies that appeal to all sides of this issue, and we must work harder to find them and implement them, rather than always letting the political pendulum swing from one group’s interest to the other. There are also several important issues that affect renter’s and there ability to gain or maintain access to affordable housing that must also be addressed. (background and credit checks, housing inspections, eviction protocols, landlord abuses and illegal contracts, tenant abuses and and subletting, govt. subsidized fraud, and much, much more…) I would take a much more comprehensive approach to dealing with this issue. https://weneedmoore.org/affordable-housing

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Yes, Rita supports these policies. She supports the proposed rent stabilization ballot initiative and ultimately believes we must guarantee universal rent control (tied to the unit, rather than a tenant) capped at 3% annually in Minneapolis. As a lifelong renter herself, she also knows that the city must increase its investment in legal services for tenants, as well as strengthen tenant protections in Minneapolis.

She will work collaboratively to pass these policies by working shoulder to shoulder with organizers and activists on the ground, while continuing to have active conversations with tenants and folks facing housing insecurity or homelessness. Rita’s theory of change is that we can create policy that actually has an impact on regular people’s lives by lobbying elected officials on the “inside” while shifting public opinion and mobilizing people on the “outside,” and she views herself as a connector between stakeholders working on and affected by these issues.

We can fully fund housing options and support services in our city by reallocating funds (from the police department, for example) because budgets must be a reflection of our values. We can also increase taxes on corporations in order to fully fund these vital needs.

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?

Michael Moore: The homelessness issue has been a problem in this city for far too long. There are reasonable and realistic solutions for this. The solutions may seem to cost a lot of money, but the reality is, our city, county and state govt. spend a lot more money dealing with the fallout from this problem that any long-term or permanent solution would ever cost. The problem has never been a lack of intelligent solutions, but rather, a political unwillingness to pointedly direct attention to a legitimate solution for these people. Addressing the needs of a population that doesn’t vote, doesn’t support any candidate, doesn’t have any political vote has always been too easy for elected officials and politicians to leave at the bottom of their priority list. Until and unless someone or some group can be motivated to resolve this issue exclusively and solely for the common good of the people, it will remain. (and we all have to be careful not to get confused or distracted by the people who talk about it, and the people who are actually prepared to do something about it…) Because I don’t have long-term political ambitions, I am not united with any political party agenda or platform, and am working only for the people, I have already pledged to take up the cause of ending homelessness in our city. We need funded programs and strategies that include massive infrastructure changes and developments. https://weneedmoore.org/homelessness

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Rita believes there must be no evictions on stolen Native land. These encampments on public land should not be cleared and the city’s resources should absolutely not be used to forcefully displace folks. The police department should never have a presence, rather social workers and public health professionals from the city. Encampments should be provided with necessary resources including bathrooms, clean water, and harm reduction tools.

To address homelessness in the short-term, the city must make an increased investment to expand shelter capacity by buying hotels in order to house everyone on the streets immediately. It must also pursue solutions for sustainable, long-term housing. We need to increase rental assistance, especially in response to the COVID19 pandemic. We can also increase city partnerships and contracts with local housing and addiction service providers who have cultural literacy with the communities that they are attempting to reach, house, and serve.

As a longtime Little Earth resident and someone who has experienced homelessness firsthand, Rita knows that public housing is the solution to homelessness and housing insecurity. Fully funding public housing and Section 8, and creating more deeply affordable 30%> AMI low barrier housing units is a priority for maintaining long-term solutions to homelessness.

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?

Michael Moore: Absolutely, This is the type of change that we would include in our comprehensive plan to end this problem. Additionally, I would include the use of organizations like Alliance Housing as partners in solving this problem. Our city absolutely has the ability to properly address this serious problem that has unnecessarily persisted. We have the buildings, we have the developers, we have the opportunity to upgrade and rezone our neighborhoods to allow for tens of thousands of more multi-unit housing that results in a total win/win/win scenario. All we need is strong leadership on this issue to force the conversation towards the intelligent solutions that already exist.

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): “Yes, Rita will support this ongoing work on the City Council and will advocate for an expansion of the SRO/Shared Housing Pilot Program passed by the council in 2019. 

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?

Michael Moore: I support it, and on a personal note, I’ve been trying for almost 10 years to work with the city to convert one of my homes in South Mpls. into a duplex, double bungalow or tri-plex unit. So, in many ways, this issue is extremely personal to me. I will be doing everything in my power to convince all the members of the city-council that this idea is literally the lowest of our low-hanging fruit options and the one that drives the largest benefits to the largest number of people. This isn’t some developer getting rich off of a lucky govt. contract. These are individual homeowners, repurposing this existing homes into more useful and valuable properties that benefit a larger number of people. Converting 50,000 city homes over the next 5 years into multi-unit rental properties, would not only open up hundreds of thousands of affordable rental spaces, it would have the effect of lowering the overall demand for affordable rental units, lowering process and generating immediate supply. Most importantly, when you couple this with the efforts we need to take regarding increasing our home ownership equity, the effect rises exponentially.

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Yes, Rita supports this work because she knows that healthy neighborhoods have a mix of people, including homeowners and renters, single-family homes to tri and fourplexes, to larger multi-unit buildings. However, while our growing city increases in density we must ensure that development does not lead to displacement. We must also create equitable access to transit routes in neighborhoods that are being upzoned.

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?

Michael Moore: Again, the real answer to this issue will be found by taking a complete and comprehensive approach to the problem. 

1.) Moving tens of thousands of potential and viable home owners from renting into home ownership. 

2.) Initiating a plan and zoning re-structure that allows for tens of thousands of single family homes to be converted to multi-unit rental properties. 

3.) Including strict mandatory affordable unit inclusion within the construction of every new larger development, including off-setting purposeful affordable developments. (exampled by lots of 1980s era developments we have throughout several areas of South Mpls. for every expensive lake front condo, a developer must have an equal number of units built that meets our city guidelines for affordable housing…) 

4.) Effective and upgraded, new public housing developments constructed with a larger cooperative effort between our city, state and federal govt. 

5.) There are currently dozens of large scale buildings and even empty lots which have been unoccupied, abandoned and unused for decades in various areas of our city. We need to end our city’s refusal to get involved in property ownership and construct intelligent strategies for repurposing these large buildings into a variety of useful working properties, including but not limited to affordable rental housing.

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Housing is a human right and should never be for profit, and all new developments must fit the needs of the community. The majority of one’s monthly income shouldn’t go towards rent, which sadly is a reality for many families in our city. Rita believes that in order to guarantee access to housing that meets the needs of the lowest-income residents in our city, we must fully fund and expand public housing – public housing defined by an individual’s income, not area median income, which we know presents extreme disparities for black and brown families. Rather than giving tax breaks to developers who are only having to make a small percentage of their units “affordable,” we can invest in public housing which is by definition mandated to be rent-controlled to 30% of one’s income. While we should always prioritize funding existing public housing projects and expanding access to government-subsidized housing, we can also make the city’s tax credit system on landlords stricter (as right now it’s 60% AMI to be affordable and only 20% of units need to fit that criteria). Also, guaranteeing universal rent control tied to new private developments tied to the unit, not the tenant, is especially important to ensure the market rate of that property isn’t hiked up once someone leaves the neighborhood.

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?

Michael Moore: First, let’s all remember the history of our city. Mpls. once had well over 500,000 people living in it. So, the numbers are not only possible, there are historically realistic. However, I think this issue involves a broader approach to our thinking. As a city, a state and as a people, we should be properly discussing and encouraging the concept of demographic integration. People may recall, a book that came out several years ago called, “the Big Sort” by Bill Bishop, where the author explained in detail, not just how America was dividing itself, but in many ways, the problems that division was causing, and would cause in the future. He used real data backed evidence and statistical analysis to prove his points. This issue affects us in Mpls. as well. Yes, we need to endure that there is enough space for all those who choose to make Mpls., their home, but we also need to recognize our role in making sure ALL people understand ALL their options and opportunities. It’s hard to know if we have space for people when we haven’t done everything in our power in terms of education and public awareness. We are extremely lucky in Minnesota, and we ought to be taking more direct advantage of our great fortune. Right now, today, there are vast portions of our metropolitan area, as well as outstate that have tremendous potential and viability. Advantages such as higher performing schools, lower property taxes, higher supply of homes (which leads to lower home prices…) access to growing fields of economic opportunities. We need leaders who truly understand the depth of this concept and are unafraid to trade the political expediency of sticking to populist talking points, and address this issue properly, firmly and directly. No one is purposefully trying to move people out of Mpls., but there is a larger fundamental issue at work here that we must also address and include into this conversation through professional and disciplined leadership. Bishop’s book was written in 2009, and literally every point he made has born out in our living truth. Now, we can’t base city policy on any one single author, and I would never suggest that, but at the same time, we can and MUST look at all the intelligent information to which we have access, and make our own smartest choices about how to approach these complicated issues and concerns and not be afraid to address anything just because of any potential, personal political fallout.

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Yes, we should absolutely welcome new residents and accommodate our growing city by increasing density. However, to reiterate again, we cannot create development that leads to displacement. Black, brown, and Indigenous communities in particular know firsthand the pain and damage caused to our homes, businesses, and identity through gentrification. We must continue to enforce tenant protections like the right of first refusal and TOPA, especially given the predatory nature of some developers who tend to target our BIPOC neighbors. In addition to guaranteeing universal rent control, passing more inclusive zoning policies across the city, ensuring equitable access to transit, we must increase city-led initiatives that promote BIPOC homeownership. We can also increase partnerships between the City and preservation buyers, tenants rights organizations, and legal aid groups to expand capacity for advocacy and resources in renter and BIPOC communities.

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

Michael Moore: I don’t think the city has exhausted all of it’s other useful and effective tools for raising funds. I’m not against any levy, used for the right reason, and having a focused, targeted end result-oriented strategy. I’m just saying that our city isn’t broke or broken, and we have many other possible better options right now that we would have to completely exhaust before a new levy would be appropriate or necessary. Including, the acquisition of County, State and Federal funds, public/private partnerships, sales use tax, licensing, development and permit fees, existing property tax restructures, city funding sources, budgetary reforms and restructures, and many other finance related issues I would settle first. The city of Mpls. has long placed a higher priority on corporation and big business appeasements. I would want to thoroughly examine all of our subsidies, tax breaks and other giveaways to our “wealthiest 1%” before I entertained the idea of more taxes on the average resident.

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Yes, as a longtime resident of Little Earth (Section 8), Rita believes that fully funding and expanding public housing is the solution to homelessness and housing insecurity. Minneapolis can be a leader in the nation when it comes to public housing, especially because we have the ability to build additional units due to the Faircloth amendment. Our siblings experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness should not sleep outside when we have the potential to house everyone through providing access to deeply affordable (30% of one’s income, not AMI) housing who needs it, especially folks facing addiction, unemployment, or other barriers to housing.

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?

Michael Moore: Well, this is really the question of our age isn’t it? How do we fairly undo, the historic unfair practices that have existed for over a century? How do we solve a problem now, that has persisted for many, many generations before us? The answer is far too complex to fairly detail in this small space, but I appreciate the opportunity to provide some summary remarks. Remember, not all of these answers are issues solvable at the city-council policy level, but that’s not our point here. We’re talking about solutions and leadership, which has no jurisdiction. 

1.) We need a comprehensive police and public safety package of reforms and restructures. (https://weneedmoore.org/policing-and-social-justice-reforms) These reforms must includes a fully funded restorative justice plan.

2.) We need a comprehensive plan to include the tens of thousands of deserving people into the ranks of new and first time home ownership. Whatever it takes, let there be no barrier to any deserving, gainfully employed individual to be allowed and able to purchase their own home. 

3.) We need complete and comprehensive education reforms. For too long, Minnesota has been at the front of education ranks for white children, and at the bottom for children of color. That must end. (https://weneedmoore.org/education-reforms–summary–copy) We must bring our public schools in line with our best private schools, and take those necessary steps to permanently end the education gap. This idea of education reform also includes ending the student debt crisis (https://weneedmoore.org/solving-the-student-debt-crisis) and providing some level of higher education to all those who seek it as a fundamental right. 

4.) Economic opportunity. Throughout our city’s history, we have had several economic booms. From flour, to sports, to real estate, to healthcare, to politics, to craft brewing and medical marijuana. Every time, with every new industry we have always successfully isolated and eliminated the participation ands benefit of people of color. We must intentionally place a highest possible priority on generating business opportunities that are exclusively directed at our underserved communities. As a govt. and regulating authority, our history shows that we have gone out of our way to allow our majority white citizens to reap the benefits of unfair practices for generations. We cannot balance the scale simply by applying equality now. We must work harder to apply the same level of inequality in the opposite direction. Create paths to business ownership, and entrepreneurial opportunities for women, minorities, immigrants, indigenous Americans and all people of color. We can’t allow another billion dollar industry (take the legalization of recreation marijuana for an example) to become controlled by and solely profiting to only 1 group of people. We must do whatever is necessary to involve govt. oversight and regulation to purposefully force the proper integration of these premier industries and marketplaces. Simply ending some historically unfair practice isn’t enough. We must apply the same effort in the opposite direction to begin the process of undoing the generations of harm and tragedy we’ve already caused. 

5.) We must begin a more inclusionary and responsive cooperation between our govt. and our residents. For too long the elected officials have assumed a mandate to do whatever they feel is in their own best interest. We must now begin to only and always act in whatever manner is in the public’s best interest. and the only to understand that fully is to be closely involved with the people whom you serve. As a city councilmember, I won’t work for the city, enacting policy or enforcing codes on behalf of the city. I will work for the people. Enacting policy and enforcing codes that benefit them…exclusively. I have made a ledge to attend every neighborhood association meeting, every month. I have published my personal phone number, which I always answer. I have pledged to open a local office which will be fully staffed and open everyday. I have pledged to giveaway a significant portion of the overblown salary afforded to city-councilmembers. (well over 100,000 dollars per year…) For to long the city of Mpls., has been a political operation. This means, that when it comes to solving problems, the political issues and considerations have always come first.

This is why so many critical problems in our city seem to persist, decade after decade. The truth is, I don’t care about politics, I care about people. And when you put people first, solving problems becomes a lot easier.

Rita Ortega (withdrawn): Our city has deep roots in systematic racism and white supremacy, which is exhibited through our city planning. Redlining still affects how black and brown families are able to access housing today, has contributed to the disproportionate gaps in homeownership rates as well as the generational wealth gap between white and black families. Exclusionary zoning has kept BIPOC people out of neighborhoods, and gentrification continues to perpetuate white supremacy and segregation. We need to transform our systems to respond to the harm caused and continuing to be inflicted on communities of color through inequitable policies. As our city continues to grow, we need to ensure that nobody is left behind– that you can get from one part of the city to another with dignity, that you have a place to call home, that you have access to economic opportunity, no matter your zip code, income or race. We have an opportunity to invest in urban renewal right in the heart of Ward 9 with the Roof Depot fight. We can also promote a restorative Minneapolis by investing in Green Zones and equitable transit like light rail and rapid bus.

Additionally, Rita fully supports reparations and believes that the city should form a commission similar to the City Of St. Paul in order to begin the process of what providing reparations could look like.

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

Michael Moore: First, thank you for your work in our city. What you do is of critical importance and after I’m elected I hope to work closely with you to gain an even more complete understanding of what exactly you need and how I can help. I’m interested, not only in advancing your causes, but also, in generating more public awareness about who you are and what you do, and what everyone can do to help us all achieve our shared goals.

I would encourage anyone to look into my website. It’s not a normal political website. (weneedmoore.org) It’s far more detailed and full of content than anything else you’ll see. It’s not designed to get me elected, it’s designed to inform,, educate and hopefully, begin a process of communication and interaction with people. I’d love to get your feedback on some of the policy sections that address your concerns. All my contact information is easily available and you can call me anytime to discuss any issue, suggestion or idea you might have.

I know I went into the weeds on some of your questions, but they were very good and many went right to the heart of the problems I’m trying to address. I look forward to meeting you and working with you in the future. Thanks for your opportunity to vent and explain and detail how I might help move us in the right direction.

Mickey Moore

Candidate MPLS City Council- Ward 9
Rita Ortega (withdrawn): none