In its recent attempt to rebut the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity’s report on racial and income segregation in subsidized artist housing, Artspace casts itself as an organization serving the neediest Minnesotans (“Don’t underestimate the value of building spaces for artists,” May 25). As Artspace tells it, many artists live in extreme poverty and many of its buildings serve the populations of color who account for a majority of the metro area’s poorest residents.
But the hard numbers simply tell another story, one that Artspace’s anecdotes utterly fail to refute. State data show that the organization’s buildings in the metro area are 77 percent white by occupancy, compared with fewer than 20 percent in traditional subsidized housing. Fewer than 1 in 10 local Artspace tenants use rental assistance, while more than 2 out of 3 of other subsidized housing residents do — a powerful clue that Artspace’s buildings are not serving the true urban poor. And the average annual income in Artspace’s metro-area projects is $32,328, nearly double the average of $17,140 in other subsidized units.
What’s more, during the development process, the differences between artist housing and other housing — the exact nature of those differences is typically left unsaid — are often cited as critical to attracting funds and generating neighborhood support for a project. Indeed, this dynamic is highlighted by Artspace’s own “best practices” report.
Perhaps, as the commentary claims, artist housing “can be a force for inclusion and opportunity.” In the Twin Cities, however, there is little evidence that it has promoted anything but racial segregation, at significant public expense.
Will Stancil, Minneapolis
The author is a research fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, an author of the institute’s recent report on subsidized housing in the Twin Cities and a co-author of the May 25 commentary “Here’s further context from our housing report — cost comparisons, for instance.”
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In their May 25 Opinion Exchange follow-up to their study’s release, Myron Orfield and Will Stancil commented on and criticized artist housing in the Twin Cities as having exorbitant costs and being targeted to white people. On the same page, Kelly Lindquist of Artspace responded, using Artspace’s project in Duluth to show that Artspace does something much different from what Orfield dislikes.
The problem is, although Orfield lumps all artist housing together, they are actually talking about two very different things. Artspace would never do the kind of projects Orfield criticizes because they are exorbitantly expensive and discriminatory. That developer would not do the kind of project Artspace does on a national scale because they are too austere and not profitable enough.
Besides, for-profit developers think compliance with the Fair Housing Act is a burden they’d rather not have. Artspace and artists in general love diversity and think compliance with Fair Housing laws is both essential and what they would do anyway.
For-profit developers make artist housing space to make money. Artspace makes residential and studio space for making art because its mission is to serve artists. Both sides ought to simply admit they do not do what the other side does, and let the policymakers sort out which they want in their community.
I vote for the Artspace side because it gives primacy to human, spiritual and artistic values over material values.
Richard Martin, St. Paul
The writer is a retired attorney and a member of the Artspace board of directors.
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It is unfortunate that the very real need for resources to better house low-income people of all races and walks of life became an argument about investment in artist housing with a focus on the Pillsbury A Mill development in Minneapolis.
Those of us who attended the recent Art-A-Whirl event and former Mayor R.T. Rybak’s reading from his new book, hosted at the A Mill, understand that this restored property is much more than loft housing for artists. It is a community center for the arts and a tribute to Minneapolis’ history. In fact, creating these community spaces and undertaking the very expensive rehab of the historic grain mill were major cost drivers for this development. That is just one perspective missing in the Orfield-Stancil commentary, which concludes that because housing funds have been committed to properties like the A Mill, impoverished people of color are denied decent homes in communities of opportunity.
Several other important details were also missing from the commentary:
1) While Minneapolis has invested some housing funds toward the arts and cultural vitality, far more has been spent by the city on the type of affordable housing Orfield and Stancil are calling for.
2) The majority of funding for affordable housing in Minnesota comes from the state housing agency — and none of its resources were used for the A Mill development.
3) At the time they were awarded to A Mill, the federal housing tax credits financing the project were not a limited resource, and these credits would have gone unused — meaning no other housing developments were denied housing tax credits because they had been committed to housing for artists.
Chip Halbach, Minneapolis
The writer is director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
Either a funny way to phrase it or a funny way to run a school
Regarding the May 26 story “Wrestler: U coach didn’t go to police”: The issue of possible prescription drug coverup involving the University of Minnesota wrestling team is troubling enough, but what does it mean when the Star Tribune reports that “the university would not make President Eric Kaler available for comment”? He’s the president of the university; who has the power to decide whether he should comment or not? I think the education reporter should look into this while others tackle the drug issue. Someone evidently has a headlock on Kaler, and we taxpayers need to know who this is and how that person is empowered. Start with Kaler himself: Ask him who tells him when he can and cannot speak and why he goes along with this. Let’s see if he is made available to answer that question. The president in charge of our great university should never be put in such a stranglehold.
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville
Her career arc is one with which many women might be familiar
I’d like to add my comments to Coleen Carlstedt-Johnson’s (“Can we please just stop playing the ‘man card’?” May 26) from the perspective of my corporate career and many years of mentoring high-potential businesswomen through Menttium.
How can Hillary Clinton, who was called the most admired person in the world, now have high negatives? Here’s how. There are three phases to a woman’s career: toil, achieve and stall.
In the “toil” phase, she works long hours learning the ropes and honing her skills. In the “achieve” phase, she distinguishes herself by taking on tough projects, focusing on goals, leading teams and creating impressive results. The “stall” phase, sometimes called the glass ceiling, is where all of the skills, tactics and results that fueled her success are held against her. Suddenly, there’s something about her that’s not quite right — she doesn’t have vision or leadership qualities, or she’s opportunistic and aggressive.
In the corporate world, disgruntled white guys gossip about women in terms of affirmative action or sleeping with the boss. It appears that in politics, they complain about the unfair party rules.
Young women in the “achieve” phase might be convinced that their path is open. But they and their parents and friends should pay close attention to Clinton’s race. It will map the future one way or another.
April Spas, Minneapolis