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But importantly for North, the new restricted apartments are also providing better-managed housing and key services in an area where rundown duplexes owned by absentee landlords are often blamed for perpetuating crime. Sue Haigh, president of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and chair of the Metropolitan Council, said that is a larger problem than an oversaturation of income-restricted housing. “A very small number of affordable rental units … are built in a single year,” Haigh said.
Poverty remains endemic on the North Side. The Met Council found that north Minneapolis has 20 of the city’s 38 racially concentrated areas of poverty — defined as communities of color living predominantly below 185 percent of the federal poverty line. Minneapolis has more such areas than anywhere else in the metro area.
Former Council Member Don Samuels, who would like to see policies that encourage more balance, said a larger middle class in North will benefit everyone by bringing more demand for better school outcomes, retail, less crime and improved city services.
Met Council Member Gary Cunningham, who’s married to Mayor Betsy Hodges, believes major infrastructure investments, such as a streetcar on West Broadway, should be made to lure investors. He said the city, the county, the Met Council and the state housing agency should develop a coordinated strategy to strike a better income balance in North. He credited the city’s recently departed housing director for attempting to achieve that balance.
“The problem was that none of it was at the scale that’s necessary in order to change the current dynamics,” he said. “Unless we’re willing to make a significant investment to attract developers and middle-income individuals to live there, it’s going to maintain itself.”
There’s no agreement on how to do that.
“I don’t think there’s a public will to subsidize market-rate apartments,” said City Council Member Lisa Goodman, chair of the community development committee. Goodman believes there will be more opportunities to create an income balance as the market improves. A major test will come this summer, for example, when a number of vacant lots near a greenway at the northern edge of the city go up for sale.
“We’re hoping that the single family homes that are built on those lots will be for people with a little bit higher income,” Goodman said.
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732