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/.
- Linea Palmisano – incumbent: no response
- Mike Norton – 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?
Mike Norton: An expensive city or neighborhood is simply a desirable place to live where there aren’t enough homes. If we can find ways to increase the housing supply in the form of new availability that will help to ease some of the current market pressure.
Other ways to improve affordability, and add more stability overall to the lives of renters, would be to follow Hennepin County (who recently raised their internal wage floor to $20/hr) and increase the minimum wage in Minneapolis to the same $20/hr.
Safety of residents is critical, which is why I support the proposed creation of a new Dept. of Public Safety that would take a holistic approach to safety. I also support safer streets as a way to make neighborhoods a safer place to live.
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?
Mike Norton:I am in favor of reasonable rent stabilization policies, and support the effort to change the City Charter to allow for such policies to be debated. Capping rent increases to a single digit percentage annual increase would prevent price gouging in a tight market, but still give landlords room make property improvements.
Just cause protections are a simple and fair way to prevent discriminatory non-renewals of leases. Landlords would still have the ability to provide just cause (such as non-payment of rent) in order to deny lease renewals. Pay or quit notices are another simple way to set fair parameters around eviction notifications.
In many cases tenants know far less about housing laws than landlords, and I would support city funded legal guidance for renters. In cases where it was necessary, and the tenant could justify their need, I would also support city provided legal representation for tenants in housing court.
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?
Mike Norton: Encampments are a symptom of a number of issues, but a lack of affordable housing and shelters is probably the leading cause. I support a housing first model, and believe increasing availability will lead to more affordability.
Transitional housing is in short supply, and allowing for SRO’s could help in that regard. Beyond housing, providing resources for those who might be struggling with addiction or mental health issues could go a long way to reduce encampment populations.
We also need to acknowledge that it’s a lot easier for someone to overcome their addiction issues if they’re in a stable environment. Unhoused persons with addiction issues living in encampments is an unsafe environment for everyone.
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?
Mike Norton: Cities like like Vancouver, BC and San Jose, CA have recently embraced SRO (single room occupancy) in order to make housing more affordable. Allowing SRO’s again in Minneapolis is a step in the right direction as it pertains to housing.
In the long run, restrictive zoning artificially increases property values without adding any “wealth” to the community beyond creating scarcity. SRO’s are a fast and effective way to provide affordable housing in a community.
Because SRO’s share resources in a co-living environment, it’s also a way for landlords to increase potential ROI on a new housing development. With shared facilities, co-living buildings can be built quickly and at a lower cost per livable square foot.
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?
Mike Norton: As mentioned previously, restrictive zoning does little more than create artificial housing scarcity. I support legalizing ADU’s, triplexes, and small multi-unit buildings (3 stories and under), citywide.
It takes abundant homes of all shapes and sizes to keep Minneapolis affordable. While apartment towers aren’t a fit for every neighborhood, but we can add small apartments without destroying neighborhoods.
Allowing for ADU’s and other rental dwellings also allows for homeowners to leverage their property to create an income stream. Current zoning restrictions limit what homeowners are able to do with their 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?
Mike Norton: The simplest way to allow for more affordable housing is to allow for more housing. As mentioned above, allowing for SRO’s and other inexpensive housing options would increase affordability.
The economic reality is it’s essentially impossible to build efficiently enough to make single family homes “affordable.” Allowing for more housing will help with supply and prices will inevitably follow.
I’m reluctant to support TIF as it tends to only large developers. However I would support it in environments where local investors, or renters looking to own, could use TIF to reduce their cost of ownership.
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?
Mike Norton: More people are coming whether we make room or not. Failing to add housing supply will artificially increase housing costs. Cities like San Francisco have seen what happens when housing lags behind demand.
If housing is a zero-sum game where all we do is swap the existing homes, people will eventually have to be pushed out to make room for new residents, and existing home values will climb beyond affordability.
We should work to find ways to new citizens to move into Minneapolis without needing to displace anyone, particularly BIPOC communities who would be disproportionately impacted by increased housing costs.
Q8: The city has the ability to pass a public housing levy. Would you vote to use that levy to the maximum extent?
Mike Norton: A simpler way to reduce the need for public housing would be to remove the restrictions on housing density that are currently in place, and I’m reluctant to add an additional tax burden.
However, I would support a temporary tax increase to public housing built. In the long run an increased population could spread out the burden of paying for affordable housing, and we wouldn’t need to increase taxes.
I would not support using the public housing levy to the maximum extent as a longterm solution to housing affordability, but I do see its value to provide some relief to our current housing situation.
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?
Mike Norton: Minneapolis is essentially five cities separated by freeways, and those freeways were intentionally placed in neighborhoods of color in such a way that they destroyed communities. I would support land bridges over freeways to reconnect the city.
Redlining and other types of institutionalized racism in public policy is something that needs to be addressed, and I would support ways to make it easier for residents to buy a home in those areas that were subject to racial policies historically.
Additionally, ensuring that housing remains affordable as people move into the city will ensure that we don’t lose neighborhood culture. It’s important that we don’t displace anyone as we make room for more neighbors.
Q10: If there are any other thoughts you’d like to add, please use this space to do so.
Mike Norton: One area where we can make it more affordable to living in Minneapolis is to make it easier to get around town without a car, including bussing and commuter bike lanes. In many parts of the city having predictable and safe access to transit options would reduce the cost of living.
As we shift to remote work, adding bike lanes also makes neighborhoods (where we spend more of our time than ever before), more livable. On top of easing the traffic burden of adding more people to the city, bikes reduce the air pollutants residents experience when they open their window.
It’s impossible to know where housing trends will go over the coming years (who would have guessed a few decades ago that warehouses would be condos and office towers empty). The best thing we can do as a city is be ready to meet the housing demands of future generations.