Minneapolis mayoral hopefuls agree the city is in the middle of a housing crisis. They don't always agree on how to fix it.
At a sometimes tense forum Monday, seven of the 16 mayoral candidates gathered at Plymouth Congregational Church and debated issues from the lack of funding for public housing to protecting renters facing eviction.
From the start, Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council Member Jacob Frey were fielding criticism from other candidates.
When candidates were asked what they would do as mayor to ensure the city has a supply of safe, high-quality affordable housing, Frey outlined a plan for using value-capture financing to increase the amount of money the city has to spend on creating housing.
"When you run the numbers out on this, we can actually solve the crisis," Frey said.
"If this is so solvable, why haven't you solved it?" asked Tom Hoch, the former head of the Hennepin Theatre Trust who was deputy executive director at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) in the 1990s.
Frey responded by talking about new affordable housing development in the Third Ward, which he represents. Hoch didn't buy it.
"Really? Really?" he shot back.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney and former law professor, followed Frey by talking about passing an ordinance mandating inclusionary zoning across the city.
"With the amount of developer money that's come into this mayoral race, that's something we need to be concerned about," she said.
Levy-Pounds went on to ask Hodges why city leaders have studied inclusionary zoning without passing an ordinance.
Hodges responded by placing responsibility at the feet of council members who she said aren't ready to get on board with a policy — a situation she likened to trying to carry a backpack full of rocks.
Frey, whose campaign has become increasingly critical of the mayor as Election Day approaches, shook his head.
Aswar Rahman, a small-business owner, kept up the direct and critical message he's had since launching his campaign.
Solving the affordable housing crisis, Rahman said, isn't a matter of "throwing more money at it." He brought up property tax increases during Hodges' four years in office and said they're contributing to the rising cost of living in the city.
DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn and activist Al Flowers largely stayed out of the fray.
Dehn talked about creating affordable housing by putting more money into the affordable housing trust fund. He also pointed to the need to preserve existing affordable housing.
"We have a crisis, and we have to ask ourselves, are we going to make this a priority?" Dehn said.
Flowers brought up a number of issues including unemployment and homelessness and pointed to homeownership as a way for residents to build wealth.
More than 100 observers attended the forum, hosted by the nonpartisan coalition Make Homes Happen.
Election Day is Nov. 7.