Minneapolis is debating a comprehensive development plan intended to create more housing opportunities for the less affluent across all neighborhoods of the city. While I am not a Minneapolis resident, I comment because these housing changes will affect my property and my right to enjoy the lifestyle I choose in a suburb immediately adjacent to the city.
During this debate, numerous accusations have suggested that people living in affluent neighborhoods and suburbs, who may be predominantly white, are racist if they oppose the Minneapolis 2040 plan. In his Nov. 14 commentary, Will Stancil suggests that certain neighborhoods seek to “bar families of color from the most affluent quarters.” This is a figment of Stancil’s imagination.
If one drives through many affluent neighborhoods, one will see numerous yard signs stating that “All Are Welcome Here” with the phrase repeated on the reverse side in either Spanish or Arabic, and at least one in Swahili. I live in such a neighborhood.
My neighborhood is made up of single-family homes, but is within three blocks of several high-density housing facilities. While not part of Minneapolis, my neighborhood resembles many of the more affluent neighborhoods of Minneapolis, and the vast majority of people living in these neighborhoods, like me, welcome and look forward to making friends with neighbors of any color, nationality or creed.
However, it is important to state what people living in affluent neighborhoods fear. We fear people moving in who have inadequate resources to maintain their property. North Minneapolis provides an example; a place that was once home to prosperous single-family houses is now run down through neglect, lack of maintenance, blight introduced by ineffective landlords and simple inability to sustain the resource. Affluent neighborhoods watched this and erected barriers to ensure their neighborhoods would not be similarly affected.
Again, using north Minneapolis only as an example, the noted deterioration did not occur as a result of racial inequality as suggested by Stancil; it is the direct result of poverty. Yes, poverty is found excessively in the black community living in north Minneapolis, but it is inappropriate to suggest that affluent communities wish to be racially exclusive. They wish to be poverty exclusive, because poverty is the root cause of community deterioration, not race.
Poverty, having inadequate resources to live well, is a major factor dooming community success. It is sad to see what has happened to north Minneapolis, and it is sad to note that the black community living in north Minneapolis is excessively affected by poverty. But let’s be truthful about the issue. Creating “affordable housing” throughout Minneapolis will not directly affect poverty, will not decrease the dispiriting effect of poverty, and will not create opportunities for those who can barely survive.
In my opinion, the 2040 proposal effectively gives up on those living in poverty. Yes, the proposal will allow some from the younger generation who are gainfully employed to move to more affluent neighborhoods. But it will not help those in poverty who have no chance to move. If anything, it will further entrench those in poverty.
Giving up on those in poverty is an inappropriate action for the city of Minneapolis. The city should focus on the root causes of poverty. Reducing poverty will create better living for all, not just for those who can access affordable housing. The city should not be distracted by the false hope of changing the housing code.
Thomas P. Moyer lives in Golden Valley.