Minneapolis’ affordable housing crisis is neither new nor surprising. As noted in the draft comprehensive plan, the city has lost more than 15,000 housing units that were affordable to households earning 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) since 2000, displacing individuals and families from their homes and communities. This not only harms those who are displaced, but spills over to their neighborhoods and to the city as a whole.
Minneapolis’ housing market is at a critical juncture. Without significant, proactive investments and policies, the city will continue to lose affordability, risking the economic and racial diversity we cherish. I was pleased to see significant affordable housing investments in Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed 2019 budget, particularly efforts to preserve the city’s affordable-housing stock, like the proposed $3.4 million for the preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing. Minneapolis cannot continue to lose housing that is already affordable — it is impossible to rebuild those unsubsidized homes at affordable rents.
I support the wide range of investments Frey has proposed, and appreciate both his and the City Council’s attention to the production and preservation of affordable housing, and protections for renters. However, our city’s housing needs will continue beyond the many one-time investments proposed for this budget cycle, and we must plan accordingly. A shrinking affordable-housing stock, projected population growth and growing numbers of households struggling to afford homes all underscore the need for dedicated funding streams to increase the resources available to support the preservation and production of affordable housing. Last year, Minneapolis developed a long-term financing plan for its parks. Now it’s time to do the same for housing.
Tim Thompson, Minneapolis
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The magnitude of the affordable-housing crisis requires a variety of solutions — from strategies to producing more housing to preserving the affordable housing we already have. Our policy solutions must consider the full continuum of housing, from preventing and ending homelessness to creating affordable homeownership opportunities.
In Minneapolis, there are nearly 500 vacant lots owned by either the city or by Hennepin County, while the inventory of homes selling for less than $250,000 has decreased by more than 50 percent since 2014. This limited entry-level stock means that many families who are otherwise prepared for homeownership continue to occupy rental units in public housing, low-income housing tax credit projects and naturally occurring affordable housing. Statewide, according to Minnesota Housing, there are 27,000 households that are income-qualified for homeownership but currently occupy rental units affordable to low-income residents. There are 64,000 households of color that similarly could afford homeownership yet continue to rent.
Assisting just some of these families as they transition into homeownership yields two important benefits. First, it frees up some of our most affordable rental units for our lowest-income neighbors. Second, it allows us to narrow the racial homeownership gap, which is the second-largest in the nation.
Make Homes Happen, a Minneapolis grass-roots coalition, is working to establish a local, dedicated, long-term source of funding that would support affordable-housing activities along the continuum, so we can ensure that the units meant to serve the lowest-income households do so.
Kathy Wetzel-Mastel, Minneapolis
The state hasn’t exactly made it easy to complete an application
I recently applied for an Enhanced Identification Card. I did it online, then brought the paperwork to the local driver and motor vehicle services office. Although I selected “Enhanced ID” and the application showed me my total due, when I arrived I was informed that the application showed that I was applying to renew a regular license. I had to manually enter everything on paper. I also was told that I might not get the new license by the end of February. This is not what I would consider a win for Minnesota taxpayers. As an IT professional for almost 40 years, I consider this software implementation a total failure.
John C Sassaman, Lindstrom, Minn.
Avery Joseph Sample’s ageless mug is an affront to all of us
I’d really like to know the health regimen of Mr. Avery Sample, who’s featured on the Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services’ new driver’s license image. He looks like he is 25, but his birthday is 8/15/57 — guess he just celebrated his 61st birthday! Seriously, after all the delays, the hoopla, the frustrated people — this is the image? Actually I don’t want to know about Mr. Avery Sample’s daily habits. I would like to know the name of the yahoo who came up with this image, and I am seriously wondering if anybody behind this new effort has an ounce of respect for Minnesota’s drivers.
Julie A. Risser, Edina
Efficiency shouldn’t mean misery. Use some warmer colors.
Utility street lights and metal municipal fixtures are rapidly switching from a comfortable warm and rosy hue to a ghastly cold, white light.
LEDs and energy efficiency are great, but why change the character of our cities so dramatically? Everyone loves selecting the perfect LED color temperature for their den or office; why is no thought given to our parks and walkways? Psychologically, the new “barnyard lights” transform the picturesque solitude of a snowy evening stroll into a lonely, freezing ordeal. A once-romantic riverfront feels like a highway truckstop.
It’s worth sacrificing a few lumens or paying the wattage difference to use warmer color temperatures and maintain our beautiful cityscapes.
Cody Bourdot, Minneapolis
A condominium goes up, and the turkeys go away. No surprise.
Regarding “Wildlife report shows ‘astonishing’ decline” (Oct. 31): Since 2010, I have observed wild turkeys wandering about my St. Paul neighborhood. Last year, I counted 17 hens and chicks in a flock. Throughout the summer and fall of 2017, I enjoyed watching those chicks grow as they roamed along the boulevard, then crossed the road to amble up the hill, pecking for bugs on Luther Seminary grounds. This year, with the construction of a 49-unit condominium on that hillside, there are no turkeys. Once I spotted one hen with one chick, but only once. Wild turkeys as a species are not in danger of extinction, but this is an example of how construction on previously open space or green space destroys wildlife habitat and contributes to the “astonishing” decline.
Susan Everson, St. Paul
Takes the right mental tools
This is a seemingly small thing, but such are the true indicators of how badly we have failed at working on our many problems.
I had a small, pocket multitool that my daughter gave me as a present some years ago. I carry it and use it several times daily. I needed it as usual on a recent morning but no longer had it. It had been confiscated at U.S. Bank Stadium. They won’t give it back. They won’t pay for it. They throw things away. They wouldn’t provide a volunteer so I could demonstrate the uses of what they let me and others keep.
Thus you can pretend you are solving the real problems. If you believe that fiction, then you are a major part of the problem. My expectations are rather low, so you can easily exceed them if you wish and I will give you most sincere thanks.
Roger Bentley, Andover