Minneapolis continues to concentrate poverty in designated neighborhoods. To build real community wealth, that practice needs to stop.
As a north Minneapolis resident for 21 years in the Hawthorne and Jordan neighborhoods, I am not persuaded by Howard Husock’s intimation that housing inequities in Minneapolis are due to new Americans (“Smart policy need not be so divisive, racialized,” Sept 8).
Husock specifically cited our neighborhood, Hawthorne, as one of the poorest in Minneapolis and attributed this lack of economic opportunity to the influx of refugees. But the lack of community wealth is not due to people in search of better opportunities — it exists because policymakers continue to approve policies that perpetuate the concentration of poverty.
As a banker for more than 40 years, I spent my professional life working to build economic prosperity in neighborhoods throughout north Minneapolis. I worked to create opportunities for all to work, live and prosper in this place we call home. I worked with developers, private and nonprofit, to build housing for first-time homebuyers and market-rate homeowners. I also led efforts to finance small businesses and community facilities.
For a while, north Minneapolis was on a trajectory to becoming a thriving, vibrant community with economic and racial diversity, where people of low, moderate and middle-income means were living side by side.
Unfortunately, three catastrophic events erased our efforts. First, the Great Recession of 2007 devastated north Minneapolis, with high rates of foreclosures due to subprime lending. In my opinion, this was the single greatest disaster destroying Black homeownership in our community.
Second, a major tornado hit north Minneapolis in 2011 that left thousands of residents in the community needing shelter.
And the third, insidious and persistent force, is the continued action by policymakers to concentrate poverty in north Minneapolis by continually approving heavily subsidized affordable housing projects here.
In the last 10 years, while every community bordering us has enjoyed mixed-income, mixed-use development, north Minneapolis residential development has all been subsidized affordable housing.
Only 30.5% of people in Hawthorne own their homes, compared to a citywide rate of 47.3%. About 35% of Hawthorne residents live below the poverty level, compared with 20% for the city as a whole.
Poverty rates between neighborhoods reveal the disparities: 5.7% in the Calhoun Isles area compared with 36% in Near North.
Finally, between 2010 and 2018, 325 new rental units were developed in Near North, none at market rate. All new projects were solely affordable housing.
The practices of “redlining” ended years ago, yet we continue to select only a few areas where people of limited means can live.
These housing practices have created imbalances in the commercial markets; deterring investors from supplying our neighborhoods with grocery stores, restaurants and local retail shops that might also provide our area with great jobs. Without such amenities, Minneapolitans with more means will not settle in these neighborhoods. It becomes impossible to create or sustain the mixed-income communities that our 2040 Plan strives for.
In 1992, Minneapolis was the focal point for efforts to end the concentration of low-income housing. In a federal lawsuit the NAACP argued that such policies perpetuated racial and low-income segregation. What resulted was the Hollman Decree, which declared that housing projects should be mixed-income and mixed-use. That case was decided almost 30 years ago.
But even this month, the Minneapolis Planning Commission is considering a new, all-affordable housing project in the Hawthorne neighborhood at the Broadway Pizza site, with 153 units of all affordable housing, when the typical all affordable project is 75 to 90 units. And this site is one of the most highly desirable locations where market-rate housing units could be integrated.
We can move forward, if we stop repeating history. The Minneapolis 2040 plan advocates for the development of mixed-income communities. The Metropolitan Council in its Thrive MSP 2040 plan presents the laudable goal of creating investment opportunities and plans that promote the development of mixed-income communities in areas of concentrated poverty.
We need to put those policies into action if we want to build stronger communities for Minnesota and finally close our racial economic gaps.
Dorothy Bridges lives in Minneapolis.