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
- Aisha Chughtai: responded
- Alicia Gibson: responded
- Chris Parsons: responded
- David Wheeler: responded
- Katie Jones: responded
- Steven J. Frich: responded
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?
Aisha Chughtai: I’ve been a renter for most of my life. My family and I used to live in Section 8 housing, and I have experienced housing instability and displacement. My experience has shown me the importance of access to a safe and stable home, and all of the different ways it impacts a person’s ability to survive in our world. Housing justice work is a core part of who I am, from opposing unjust evictions of neighbors in Whittier, to providing support to unhoused folks in encampments, to calling for action in the streets. I believe that housing is a human right, not a commodity, and I will be a champion for policies that ensure everyone has access to safe, stable, and dignified housing.
Minneapolis recently adopted several new policies to protect renters, like inclusive screening criteria and a security deposit cap. I will work to expand and improve on these, and ensure that they are adequately enforced. I will also fight for further tenant protections, including a just cause eviction policy and pre-eviction filing requirements (also known as pay or quit), and Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) policies. Furthermore, I would advocate for any tenant protections with a minimum period of tenancy to go into effect after three months, rather than one year.
I will be a strong advocate for rent control, so that poor and working people, multigenerational families, people on fixed incomes, seniors, and more can stay in the homes and communities they love. We need universal rent control that is tied to inflation, with no exemptions for small buildings, and with an independent, elected board charged with enforcement.
It is just as critical that we increase the amount of, and people’s access to, affordable housing in our city. We should be using every tool at our disposal, including tax and zoning codes and city programs, to create and preserve affordable housing. We must also support creative housing solutions, like co-ops, and land trusts.
Because we know that we cannot rely solely on the private market to provide enough affordable housing to meet the need in our city, it is also crucial that we prioritize public housing in Minneapolis. This means ceasing the privatization of existing public housing, using a public housing levy to fund operation and repairs, and working with partners at all levels of government to allow for the building of new public housing.
Alicia Gibson: Given the current situation in which city planning has enabled an over-saturation of market rate housing at the expense of protecting naturally occurring affordable housing I would work to protect and grow our naturally affordable housing by requiring increased scrutiny for development projects that displace people out of affordable housing, and by making SROs and boarding houses legal. Additionally, I would tackle the issue of financing that is the bottle neck stifling the growth of new affordable housing projects. New build affordable housing requires longer term financing, which traditional banking does not adequately support. Federal and state bonding to finance these projects is lagging behind need. I will work with our state and federal partners (and all indications are that we will be receiving much more help in this area from the federal government, which is the most influential player) to push for increases in available financing through public bonding. Additionally, I want to pursue creative community financing options to increase collectively owned housing such as co-ops and community investment trusts, in addition to land trusts (which also currently largely rely on state and federal funding). As someone whose family bought the home we were renting through the equivalent of a tenant occupied purchase agreement, passing TOPA legislation that gives preference to tenants and also includes housing non-profits and neighborhood associations would be one of my top priorities.
Chris Parsons: I would advocate for:
- Ending the city policy of encouraging the destruction of existing affordable rental housing and the razing of affordable single family homes. Single family homes are often the best option for large and multigenerational families. The new housing market is not meeting their needs by primarily focusing on 2 bedroom and smaller units. This is causing an undo hardship and hitting families of color disproportionately.
- Enhancing down-payment assistance so that more renters can own and be their own landlord while building wealth. There is a huge transfer of wealth from renters, who are disproportionately are people of color, to mostly white landlords and developers in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion every single year. To shrink our wealth disparities we can encourage more ownership housing to be built and preserved.
- Limiting the number of single-family homes that corporations can acquire and rent at a profit.
- Setting the city’s minimum wage-on track to be a more living-wage. Raising the minimum-wage to $15/hr was a good start, but it simply isn’t enough for many families, especially larger families, to find suitable housing.
- Working with government on the county, state, and federal level and non-profits to provide resources to assist our unhoused into stable housing. This would include connecting the unhoused who need it with professionals to assist with mental health and drug addiction counseling.
David Wheeler: Minneapolis – 1) stop the tear-downs and the destruction of older housing stock; 2) require new larger developments provide at least 20% low income eligible units; and, 3) focus city, county, state, and federal resources to invest in affordable housing.
Katie Jones: Housing is one of the most complex issues facing our city today. When I first received this questionnaire, I was most excited to see all the groups that have partnered to create it. While each focuses on different issues and priorities for fixing our housing crisis, all of these groups play an important role in this fight for everyone in Minneapolis to have a safe, stable, affordable home.
My goal is to not only make sure we solve the housing crisis we have today, but to put the pieces in place so that everyone has access to housing tomorrow and in the future. This involves expanding housing options for residents at each stage of life and at different price points. I first plan to pull all the existing levers while working toward making necessary changes for the long term.
Ensuring housing today:
The City must work with partners, such as the County and housing organizations, to prioritize resources toward the greatest need – to neighbors without homes. In that work, we must listen and understand the barriers to shelter neighbors experience. I’ve met with people, who worked at encampments and who have continued to work to support those without homes. It’s clear that there are different needs of neighbors experiencing short term versus long term homelessness and that a lack of security and privacy in existing shelters is a barrier. I’m inspired by the Envision and Avivo Indoor Villages projects, which address issues of security and privacy, provide necessary wrap around services, and expand the number of shelter spaces.
Ensuring housing tomorrow:
Too many Minneapolis residents teeter on the edge of losing their homes or cannot find permanent housing. I aim to prioritize supports for the most vulnerable – those earning less than 30% AMI. I seek to augment existing programs that work and collaborate with community members to develop new community-based solutions. I support the 4-D Program, Stable Homes Stable Schools, the inclusionary zoning policy. In addition, I support rebalancing power between renters and rental property owners through policies that prevent price gouging and stabilize rents, while ensuring that safeguards are in place for continued good upkeep and maintenance of properties.
Ensuring housing in the future:
The decisions we make now can stave off future housing crises and future harms of displacement. As Minneapolis continues to grow, we must expand the number of homes and variety of them from apartments, houses , and condos to boarding house rooms, senior living, ADUs, cooperatives, and triplexes. That means making it easier to build. Continuing to expand housing not only creates physical space for new residents, it also raises additional tax revenue, which is so vital to supporting initiatives I’ve mentioned above. If we care about preventing harm, we must create space for everyone.
Steven J. Frich: I would prioritize multiple approaches to house the unhoused community, and to create more safe and affordable homes. The first approach is to put a cap on annual rent increases to 3%. This way, landlords can’t continue to widen their profits by extensive amounts, which overwhelmingly hurts lower income earners. Another approach would be through the increased funding and planning of city funded affordable and cooperative housing as well as establishing more community land trusts so home ownership can be more attainable for working class people. Taking away the profit motive from housing developments and putting housing in democratic control of the people who live there will help to ensure the affordability, safety, and quality of the residence. This would also provide an opportunity to specifically build housing for the unhoused, or grant the opportunity for them to live in buildings bought from landlords. I think the city owning and maintaining properties is a good way to ensure that profit is not a part of housing. Housing is a human right and shouldn’t be exploited by landlords. With new housing, we need 20-30% of all new apartment complexes in Minneapolis to be either for affordable housing via income based housing or for the unhoused. I believe that we have to incentivize landlords to lower their rents and fill vacant units. We don’t have a shortage of units, we have a shortage of affordable units. I would propose levying a tax against landlords for vacant units that have been empty more than three months. I also support the passing of a city law that requires all housing to be based on income in Minneapolis, this is so we don’t have people paying 50% or more of their monthly income to just have a roof over their head.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: Yes! Rent stabilization/control is one of many policies needed to address the housing crisis. It is one of the most efficient and cost-effective tools to guarantee housing stability and stop the ballooning of rents in Minneapolis. However, the experiences of other cities across the country show that the details of the program are critically important to its effectiveness. We need universal rent control that is tied to inflation, that caps remain in place with vacancy control, and with no exemptions for small buildings. The stability that rent control would bring to poor and working class households across the city will have long-term benefits for them and for the city as a whole. When renters aren’t cost-burdened, and don’t live in fear of extreme rent increases, they will have more disposable income to spend supporting local businesses. It will also lead to better health for families, and better school performance for children, as we know that stability is an important component of health and education outcomes.
Rent control only works when combined with other strong renter protections, and such protections will be especially important until we can enact rent control. Rent control without just cause protection creates an incentive to evict in order to raise rents, and just cause protection without rent control is easily circumvented by landlords by simply raising the rent. Pay or quit policies and city-funded legal services for tenants allow renters to have access to all the information they need to protect themselves and their families from unjust evictions. Inclusive screening criteria help ensure that the structural inequalities of our economic and criminal justice systems do not continue to be reflected in our housing as well.
For those housing-related policies and programs at the city level that are not preempted at higher levels of government, I will be a fierce advocate for renters’ rights. I will look to movement leaders and community organizations for guidance about the needs of working people in the city, and actively pursue measures that will bring them safety, stability, and dignity in their housing. Where we are prevented from taking action, either by preemption or by funding structures, I will leverage relationships with elected leaders and staff at every level of government to secure the funding and policies that we need to meet the housing needs of our community.
Alicia Gibson: I fully support just cause protection and city-funded legal services for people facing eviction. Pay or quit is also an important way to enable people to stay in their homes if they can come up with rent due at the time of eviction, though I would want to see the specific language around this as repeated use of this right by individuals over time may create the unintended consequence of disincentivizing landlords from participating in things like 4D housing. As someone who experienced housing instability throughout my childhood and as a young adult, I am very interested in pursuing a rent stabilization policy that evens out spikes in rents increases and provides stability in housing in a way similar to the rent control policies in place for the 4D housing program.
Chris Parsons: I support stabilizing rent via increasing the supply and variety of housing, both rental and ownership, as well as increasing the affordability of housing by raising wages. I do support just-cause protection for renters. The power dynamic between renters and landlords is very uneven and I support evening it out by better ensuring that landlords act in good-faith and don’t attempt to evict renters, unjustly. I support pay or quit notification as an extra step to help renters avoid eviction. I support helping those in need pay for legal services to help stave off eviction and partnering with renter advocacy groups to help with the costs.
I will work to make these things happen by engaging all stakeholders, renter advocacy groups, landlords, my council colleagues and the mayor to work towards a solution that works best for Ward 10 and the city.
David Wheeler: Minneapolis – St. Paul’s SAFE – Stable, Accessible, Fair & Equitable – law should be a model for Minneapolis, and I would introduce such a bill when on the council.
Katie Jones: I’m encouraged by the important steps taken for renters’ rights, but there is still work that needs to be done. Many Ward 10 renters have faced unconscionable practices from some landlords in recent years. This burden falls disproportionately on our BIPOC communities.
It’s important to acknowledge that there are power dynamics between renters and property owners. I will work with tenant advocacy organizations to understand what’s missing from our current protection policies and work to address them.
Rent stabilization is likely to be on the ballot in November. Price gouging has been used by some landlords to quickly evict tenants. This immediately puts families and individuals in crisis. Landlords should not be able to game the system at the expense of their tenants. As studied by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and presented to City Council in February, capping rent increases is an effective tool to prevent this.
Other recent proposals include requiring written notice before an eviction can take place and providing just cause before refusing to renew a lease. These common-sense actions help ensure that tenants have adequate time to decide where they will live.
These are basic elements of a fair housing market. Stability, predictability, and peace of mind are critical for the safe and equitable community we all strive to achieve.
Steven J. Frich: Yes, I support all of these solutions for protecting renters. I believe a number of people in the current council and a few people running in other wards will be aligned with protecting renters. Most Minneapolis residents are renters, so most of the city council’s constituents are renters, they should focus on advocating for their ward. I will work with other councilors to hold town halls to inform the people of the city what we are proposing and how it will help a majority of the people. If we have councilors who are not supporting tenant’s rights, we can simply reach out to their constituents to have them ask their representatives to support these protections.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: The encampments of unhoused people seeking shelter together in our parks and other public land have laid bare the depth of the housing crisis facing our city. While people have always experienced homelessness in Minneapolis, it has escalated as rents have continued to increase and wages have stagnated. The COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the cruelty of our current system. Leaving people unhoused is a choice, and it’s one the city continues to make every time resources are spent evicting an encampment instead of addressing the root causes of homelessness.
If elected I will work to immediately halt the use of any city resources in the eviction and destruction of encampments. Instead, city resources should be devoted to funding hotel rooms and transitional and permanent housing at a level that meets the need of housing insecurity in the city, and providing comprehensive public health response to encampments (including making sure residents of these encampments have access to hand washing stations and portable bathrooms). A staggeringly disproportionate number of those living in encampments are members of our Indigenous community, and continuing to ignore or actively cause harm to the encampments is a shameful continuation of our history of genocide. In both the short and long term, we also need to work in partnership with County and State leaders to find the resources we need to house all of our neighbors and provide them with the mental health support and casework they need.
Alicia Gibson: Housing advocates have focused on long term housing to such an extent that there wasn’t enough short term housing capacity when the pandemic crisis hit. This experience has taught us that we need to maintain an increased capacity for short term housing as we move into the future so that we can weather a future crisis in a more caring and safe way. Working with our county partners to continue increasing mental health and drug addition services is crucial, particularly services that are culturally-sensitive and culturally relevant as so much of the trauma that causes long term housing instability can be traced to historical traumas related to white supremacy and colonization.
Chris Parsons: We simply cannot view the unhoused encampments as a sustainable solution, but while they exist we must provide for the protection of the people living there. This will take a multi-prong approach but I can see the Office of Violence Prevention taking a leading role in working to coordinate services and mental health and addiction resources to the encampments. Often people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are not able to find housing or space in shelters. I would encourage providing funding to programs that take a “housing-first” approach to treating those suffering from addiction and unhoused.
David Wheeler: Clearly additional SRO’s will need to be protected and expanded. I have volunteered at Simpson housing services, and we must look to the community, non-profits, and the faith community to bolster affordable housing options for the homeless.
Katie Jones: For years, people experiencing chronic homelessness in Minneapolis have been pushed to the shadows – out of sight and out of mind. The presence of tented communities in public spaces created a new visibility and awareness of those living chronically unhoused. We cannot allow this issue to be pushed into the shadows again. These are the most vulnerable in our city and we must work with members of the unhoused community to identify solutions that work for them.
Homelessness is a societal challenge connected to many, many other issues. Fixing it will require comprehensive changes to the way we approach multiple issues.
First, we must take a housing-first approach. Instead of a reactive approach to helping people on the street, we need to be proactive by providing them a home first and then the services to make sure they can succeed. There are models both around the country and around the world of how to do this successfully, and the data is clear that this is the most effective way to counter homelessness and return stability to people’s lives. Unless we get serious about how we approach this challenge, this will continue to be a top issue every election cycle.
Second, we need to decriminalize homelessness. People living outside in tents are not criminals. Minneapolis residents can be forced to move a dozen or more times in a year due to police harassment, including having their belongings bulldozed. Further, when unhoused people struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues need help, the response should not be police, but professionals who specialize in appropriate crisis response and who can connect these residents with supportive services.
While working on long-term solutions, we need to invest in community-driven projects in the short- and the mid-term. There are creative ideas that are being implemented that deserve the city’s support. Avivo’s Indoor Village and Envision Community are both projects that give residents a secure place to live, privacy, necessary services, and an opportunity to create a thriving community. As we work toward long-term solutions, we need to look to projects like these to help in the meantime.
Partnering at the county, state, and federal levels to make sure all resources available are taken advantage of and work toward a more comprehensive partnership that does not pass the responsibilities. It is all of our responsibilities to make sure our fellow Minneapolitans have a safe and stable home.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: Yes. Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) housing is an important component of any housing justice plan. SROs and boarding houses provide deeply affordable housing options, which are largely missing in Minneapolis right now.
But Minneapolis is no stranger to having many SROs and boarding houses. These types of buildings existed in abundance downtown—and also in my own neighborhood in Whittier—until they fell victim to mid-century “urban renewal” projects, and their residents were displaced. As a councilmember, I will make it a priority to correct that error by re-legalizing this type of housing.
SROs and boarding houses work best when they provide wraparound services, like addiction counseling and job training, to their residents and to the larger community as well. I will work to ensure that city funds are available to subsidize these programs in SRO buildings.
Alicia Gibson: Yes.
Chris Parsons: Yes. We need a wide variety of housing options and SRO’s do provide a viable option.
David Wheeler: As mentioned in the previous question, this housing option needs to be expanded as appropriate.
Katie Jones: As someone who has lived in a 7-person rooming situation and whose spouse has lived in a 12-person rooming situation, I highly support SROs. They provide a critical housing option that is affordable and provides residents stability.
Steven J. Frich: Yes, I think we should establish these again, but I think we should continue to push for more options. I would rather a person who is unhoused or experiencing housing insecurity has a full apartment unit, not just a small space.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: Yes. Exclusionary zoning was enacted—along with redlining—to divest from communities of color and keep certain neighborhoods wealthier and whiter. Ensuring that working class people and Black, brown, and Indigenous people can afford to live anywhere in the city is part of confronting the legacy of these racist practices.
Affordable housing in Minneapolis needs to be abundant and needs to exist everywhere. To do that well, our housing stock needs to be diverse. More Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), more apartment buildings, and more 3- and 4-plexes will increase density while creating the kinds of units that are more likely to be affordable.
We need to go beyond just lifting the restrictions on the construction of these types of housing. If elected, I will work to create legislation that actively provides incentives for homeowners who want to add ADUs on their properties, as well as to people intending to build multi-family homes. As ADUs and multifamily dwellings proliferate, and more homeowners become landlords, it’s crucial that we also enact strong renter protections to ensure the tenants in these units have safe and secure housing.
Alicia Gibson: Yes, I support increasing the diversity of housing in all neighborhoods. I’d like to build on this work by legalizing boarding houses, and by paring down our zoning and coding process to eliminate the unnecessary hoops that people must jump through in order to transition current buildings into denser housing uses. ADUs are allowed, but a person must go before the planning commission and advocate for zoning variances for issues like placing the ADU on the exact same footprint as the garage that was torn down to make room for housing. I have heard from many small landlords who have long lists of completely irrational and expensive workarounds they have to create for things that have nothing to do with safety. Portland is a good model for creating education around building ADUs and revamping the codes to make these kind of transitions easier and more cost-efficient.
Chris Parsons: I do not support many of the recent zoning reforms because, while they do technically provide more housing options, they are not addressing the affordability of housing. Tearing down an affordable single family home and putting up a triplex, where each unit costs more than the single family home, while providing less square footage and bedrooms is making housing less affordable and exacerbating wealth disparities. I support ADU’s as long as the owner occupies the main dwelling. I support targeting density to where it makes the most sense such as along transit corridors and hubs.
David Wheeler: Minneapolis – I do NOT favor tearing down housing that can be renovated only to expand multi-units. This exact situation happened next door. A 4 unit, 16 bedroom building with 2 party-decks filled a small single family home next door to our 1926 5 unit 10 bed-room condo. This replacement property not been as asset, nor is it affordable. When I was on the Duluth City Council we allowed ADUs in appropriate situations. Housing options are important, but need to be with the character of the neighborhood. Variances need to be the exception, not the rule.
Katie Jones: I support this work because by continuing to expand housing options today, we will avoid housing crises in the future. Minneapolis is an attractive city and continues to grow. We need to ensure there are homes for people at all stages of life living here now and those who will join us in the coming years.
Having diverse housing options is valuable tool to keep communities together. I have also personally experienced the benefit of diverse housing options. When my husband and I were ready to purchase a home, we wanted to stay in our walkable, bikeable neighborhood, which was close to our jobs and friends. We could not afford a single family home in the area, but purchasing a triplex gave us the financial flexibility to achieve that goal. I want others to have that option too.
To build on this, I support initiatives that encourage the development of small multifamily and ADU properties as ways to expand housing, improve financial stability, and promote diverse rental ownership.
And lastly, given the age of the ADU policy it is time to evaluate how the policy is working and to make revisions if the policy requirements have been too prohibitive to development.
Steven J. Frich: Yes, I support allowing these types of housing. I think the best way to work on these issues is not to continue building structures or buildings, but to utilize the empty units we already have in the city. We have to be firm with landlords and let them know that we are not a city that deserves to be treated like second-class citizens just because we don’t own property.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: Minneapolis needs to be doing a much better job of leveraging its financial resources to both incentivize and pressure developers to build more affordable housing. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is an example which has historically been used for projects like stadiums that provide no housing benefit, especially to poor and working class people. It could be better utilized, for example, by declaring a TIF zone near municipal and infrastructure improvements which increase land values, which could help fund affordable housing in the area.
Our approach to development should be to increase affordable housing options while limiting displacement. We need to make sure there’s enough affordable housing for the people who choose to make this community their home, and for the people who have called their neighborhoods home for a long time. Increasing development in the hopes that it will result in more naturally occurring affordable housing over time is one piece of this, but the housing market was designed to strip people of their humanity and we cannot rely completely on the private market.
Inclusionary zoning, including allowing for more density through multi-family housing and other solutions like ADUs, is necessary to allow for the increased density our growing city requires. However, it is difficult for developers alone to produce enough deeply affordable housing units to serve the existing need. In addition to this market option, we need to invest in creative housing solutions.
One type of affordable housing solution that I would champion is the exploration of using city-owned land to develop mixed-income social/municipal housing similar to the Viennese model. Social housing need not be sub-par, unsustainable, or unattainable. In fact, with mixed-income developments we can cross-subsidize our social housing by including market rate rental units in the buildings, which would allow us to begin exploring this model of housing even before we secure state or federal funding, and would make it more sustainable in the long term.
Alicia Gibson: As mentioned in the previous answer, we need to look closely at our codes so that fewer zoning variances are needed for transitioning previously existing buildings into denser uses, and the same applies to new affordable housing build. TIF districts have been successfully used to increase the property tax base by encouraging development in underutilized areas; given our current housing crisis I would be in favor of using TIF to create carve outs to incentivize affordable housing particularly in areas of the city where the balance of types of housing are lop-sided.
Chris Parsons: Building new housing is expensive that’s why it is very important to preserve our existing affordable housing stock. I would like to see the city continue to work with the state and federal government to spur investment in affordable housing.
David Wheeler: Minneapolis – my focus would be to expand options as mentioned above and increase investment in job training, job development that will increase renter’s income. More affordable units and higher incomes is exactly the solution we need.
Katie Jones: We are restricted in the amount of affordable housing that is built in the city not only due to limited funds but also due to onerous zoning requirements that increases development costs. Particularly, the recently approved regulations regarding floor-to-area ratios and minimum lot sizes stifle development options and increase costs unnecessarily for variances and redesigns. In addition, as someone, who is attempting to build a secondary structure and has evaluated ADU and cluster development options, I’ve experienced the difficulty of trying to design even a modest building to conform with the requirements. Some of the requirements seem especially odd, such as front facade window-to-wall ratio requirements for a rear structure. Given the fact that secondary structures don’t face the street, such facades should not need to comply with requirements as if they did.
The goals of the 2040 Plan behoove us strip out extraneous requirements, remove parking minimums, reduce needs for variances, and to push the envelope on what is allowed by right. This may mean adjusting these rules to fit different contexts. For example, in older areas of the city with taller and more densely packed structures, FAR may be set to a value fitting the average of the immediate surroundings, instead of using a number based on city-wide averages, which include newer, less dense stock.
Overall, the easier we make it to build – particularly densely – the less expensive individual homes will be.
Steven J. Frich: I would prefer publicly owned housing, so people have a fair rent. A publicly owned housing allows housing that is actually affordable to poor and working class people. They have tried publicly owned housing in cities throughout the world and it has worked to keep rent prices down. Housing is a human right and there should not be a system in place that allows landlords to profit in the way they do off something people need to survive.
I support giving tax abatement to cooperatively owned businesses and housing units to help incentivize the widespread adoption of this. I think we need control over the housing market so we don’t have exorbitant housing prices. I believe community land trusts are one solution to this.
We need a diverse strategy for providing affordable housing for the people in Minneapolis. We need income based rent, we need city subsidized housing, and publicly owned housing.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: Everyone who wants to live in Minneapolis should be able to, from the family that has been here for generations to people moving here for the first time. To make sure that happens, it will be a top priority of mine to limit displacement as we seek to build more housing.
The best way to do that is to pair stronger renter protections with a concerted effort in policy and investment to create more affordable multi-family housing everywhere in the city, bolstered by inclusionary zoning.
Developers building more housing can relieve some of the pressure on the housing market, but it can’t be the main solution. On the City Council, I will push to invest meaningfully in building more social housing and incentivizing the building of deeply affordable housing.
At the same time, stronger tenant protections will help ensure people can stay in their homes without fear of being priced out. I will be a champion for renters’ rights, and fight hard to legalize rent control in Minneapolis, introduce just-cause eviction measures, and pass pay-or-quit policies.
Alicia Gibson: As people move to our city for economic opportunity and to take advantage of economies of scale in transportation and energy efficiency, we should make space for this growth as our infrastructure can handle it and as it does not push out BIPOC communities and other long term residents. I am particularly concerned about growth that is mostly focused on young people who may likely move out of the city to find home ownership opportunities and more space, and yet whose time in Minneapolis has caused disruption to the already economically marginalized. In order to combat the systematic racism that keeps BIPOC communities from long-term housing stability, I would like to create a reparation system specifically around housing that addresses red-lining, persistent home ownership gaps, and stolen indigenous land. I am also interested in pursuing right to return policies that help people return to housing in areas where they have been gentrified out, and in allowing neighborhoods to create development visions and priorities that must be taken into account in the zoning and planning process.
Chris Parsons: The Met Council Projects that Mpls will grow by 8.5% over the next 20 years. Thats about 20,000 households and a slower rate of growth than the previous 10 years. Between 2010-19 Mpls was able to accommodate the growth in residents without drastic changes to zoning. I don’t see a need for changes now. What is threatening families of color is the focus on expensive new housing that is disproportionately not meeting their needs. People of color are more likely to have larger families and live in multi-generational homes and new construction is not meeting the needs of larger families. Existing single family homes better meet those needs and provide opportunities for families of color to build wealth and help close the wealth gap with white families.
David Wheeler: Minneapolis – In 1950 Minneapolis had over 520,000 people, and is now about 85,000 less than that peak. The difference now is that people demand more space and have more cars than the 1950s. Continued investment in upgrading the housing stock through low-interest, or zero interest energy and improvement loans is vital. The focus should be in low-income neighborhoods with the most diversity. Black, brown, and Indigenous people have a long history in our city and their communities and housing requires investment and protections.
Katie Jones: Our City continues to attract new residents. Without adequate growth in the number of housing units as well, our must vulnerable residents are at risk of being squeezed out. To prevent this, we need several approaches such as:
- Leveraging policies like 4D, which provides property tax relief for NOAH rental property owners for 10 years in exchange for keeping rents affordable.
- Evaluating our inclusionary zoning policy definitions to ensure it is creating homes that are affordable for the most vulnerable residents.
- Facilitating greater study of housing needs involving stakeholders from residents to developers. This is to identify particular market gaps (i.e. 3+ family bedroom units) and barriers to the development of such housing.
- Supporting small rental property ownership particularly for BIPOC community members as a path to diversify income and find greater financial and housing stability.
- Considering rent stabilization tools to rebalance power between renters and property owners and prevent displacement.
- Allowing new construction, even luxury housing, to be built. Although perhaps counterintuitive, it is vital to have such developments in our city. These developments increase the tax base, which funds critical services such as housing subsidies for those most in need.
Steven J. Frich: Home ownership is the best way to secure housing for people. If we create apartment cooperatives by either the city fronting the money by purchasing the property for the tenants or allowing the tenants of a building the first right to purchase that is a good solution. I’ve seen land trusts be the best way to ensure those who currently own their houses keep community power to keep housing prices affordable and large complexes out of their neighborhood. I think we should make more space for incoming people to the city, but we need to ensure the buildings they are moving into or that the city builds are not gentrifying the neighborhoods or pushing people out of them. We have to ensure that these new complexes are rent controlled or city owned.
Q8: The city has the ability to pass a public housing levy. Would you vote to use that levy to the maximum extent?
Aisha Chughtai: Yes, I support using the public housing levy to the maximum extent. We need to put every dollar we can into public housing. It’s important to note, however, that the city alone cannot levy enough money on public housing. Public housing in the city has an operating budget shortfall and over $150 million in outstanding repairs. I will also use my relationships in the Minnesota Legislature to fight for the state to step up and allocate more money for public housing.
In addition to working to bring more money to public housing, I will oppose Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and Section 18. The city is using these programs to privatize public housing, which is unconscionable in the midst of a period of such extreme inequality. Any action by the City of Minneapolis to privatize public housing is not only a step in the wrong direction, it is contributing active harm to working class communities now and in the future.
Alicia Gibson: Given the housing crisis that we are facing I strongly lean towards a housing levy to the maximum extent but would certainly want to see the data about what additional tax burden this places and how it affects low income property owners.
Chris Parsons: I support the use of the public housing levy to support pubic housing in Mpls. If by “maximum extent” you mean setting it at its previous level of $8 million, then I am for that. Any other proposals I would have to look at first before rendering an opinion.
David Wheeler: Minneapolis – I would be glad to hold hearings and consider such a levy.
Katie Jones: I am in favor of restoring the public housing levy, which was removed during the Great Recession when, ironically, the need for supportive housing was increasing quickly. While federal funding is essential to ensuring we have a strong public housing system in Minneapolis, a levy to supplement this funding is also important. The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) provides services for over 10,000 families in Minneapolis, and those residents are among our most vulnerable populations. With cuts in federal funding over the past few years, we need to support families who need our help the most.
Steven J. Frich: Yes I would.
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?
Aisha Chughtai: All of these policies and practices were designed to perpetuate racism and to extract wealth from poor Black, brown, and Indigenous communities for the benefit of the wealthy—the wealth of downtown and of our suburbs was built on this divestment. As such, we can’t have truly equitable housing, and we can’t right the injustices of the past without decommodifying housing. All of the work I do on housing is working towards that goal.
Decommodifying housing looks like taking power back from the real estate industry. We know the private market won’t deliver affordable housing at anywhere near the levels we need—the costs of construction and land values are too high to build affordable housing without subsidies. Instead, the City Council must act boldly to invest in the expansion of public housing, prevent the privatization of current public housing stock, and incentivize private developers to keep units affordable.
In a Minneapolis where housing is decommodified, renters will have the security of knowing that their housing will be safe and secure, and that they won’t be priced out of their homes. I look forward to being a champion for rent control, public and social housing, and robust tenants’ rights legislation.
Decommodifying housing will also require us to take concrete steps to ensure we’re not replacing old-school redlining with new extractive practices. Two of the most destructive modern-day parallels are gentrification and racist home loan distribution by large financial institutions. I will work to prevent the real estate speculation that drives gentrification by funding the expansion of the city’s community land trusts and assisting tenants in purchasing their buildings to convert into cooperative housing. Establishing a municipal bank, which could provide loans in an equitable and accountable way, could go a long way towards combating predatory lending practices and is something that I would push to explore.
Alicia Gibson: My vision for an equitable and restorative way of building a better Minneapolis for all in the context of housing is to create a housing reparations system to directly address the history of systemic racism that has not only created uneven experiences with housing instability, but with all the accumulated opportunity gaps that come from housing displacement and being shut out of community and family wealth growth.
Chris Parsons: Mpls and other cities in our country have had a long history of marginalizing non-white and poor people. Thankfully, our society and our city are trending towards more progressive policies. However, I fear that we are beginning to slide back to the bad old days. We need to reverse the city’s policies that are disproportionately hurting opportunities for people of color to access affordable homes that meet their needs and the limiting the opportunity to build wealth.
David Wheeler: Treat all people with dignity and respect, and also providing a variety of avenues leading to safe affordable housing.
Katie Jones: We know that policies of the past impact the world we live in today, often in hurtful ways. I support policies and programs that will mitigate these negative impacts, including:
- Green job training, specifically in energy efficiency and solar, to tighten homes and decarbonize the energy our homes use. Priority projects should be in Green Zones. Doing so improves local housing stock as well as reduces energy bills, local air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Pathways for the City to acquire property in neighborhoods previously marked green during the period of redlining and use it for long term affordable housing programming.
- Using planning tools and incentives to make “complete neighborhoods” in pursuit of a 15-minute city. In such a city, residents can access the majority of their daily needs – groceries, childcare, hardware stores – within a 15 minute walk, bike, roll, or transit ride. Having such destinations close by reduces travel time and costs for residents as well as reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Exploring connections over freeways such as land bridges or caps to reduce the impacts of pollution on our communities and to provide additional green space in our city.
- Road projects that reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve transit access.
- Exploring pollution and sound mitigating features along highways such as vertical garden walls/fences as well as solar arrays.
Steven J. Frich: I want to limit the number of properties that a person or corporation can own to two properties in the city. We want to provide town halls regarding housing matters where the council continuously listen to the community’s needs and wants and actually does what they want.
Q10: If there are any other thoughts you’d like to add, please use this space to do so.
Aisha Chughtai: I am grateful for this opportunity to share my vision for the future of housing in Minneapolis at this critical juncture. For more information about me, my vision, and my campaign, please visit http://www.aishaforward10.com and follow me on social media. Thank you!
Alicia Gibson: As we consider all the ways to increase the number of laws and policies to protect housing stability, I want to remind us all that these laws and policies are only as good as the will of politicians to enforce them. When neighbors at 2003 Aldrich were evicted from their homes with less than 48 hours notice after a developer improperly used building techniques at the adjacent property site — this was an accumulation of failures by city leadership to enforce building codes (that were obvious to the naked eye), prioritize low income housing in an era of gentrification, and to be present to inform residents of their rights. This resulted in people tragically being placed in a situation that did not need to happen, and in low income renters not exercising their rights and protections because they did not know about them. I was the one who showed up to fight for that building and for the people who were displaced, and everyone in this city can expect me to show up and fight not only for the passage of laws and policies, but for those rights to be upheld.
Chris Parsons: none
David Wheeler: Your aspirations are noble and you are pushing us to build and more equitable and safe Minneapolis. Thank you, and I look forward to partnering with you on these efforts!
Katie Jones: none
Steven J. Frich: I want to thank all of the organizations that put together this questionnaire. I believe we have a real opportunity to change the oppressive power dynamic in the city of Minneapolis between landlords and tenants. We need to put housing directly in control of the public and not a few wealthy individuals and corporations. At the city level, we have almost unlimited ability to levy taxes against the property owners who continue to make this city unlivable to poor and working class people. We have to elect a city council that is willing to take a stand against the landlords and work towards creating a more equitable society.