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Minneapolis residential discrimination: Why neoliberal zoning will fail

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
While there may be a local demand for affordable housing, housing is also a national market sensitive to price, profit, and cost issues that often are not local.
The spatial distribution of housing in Minneapolis and all of the Twin Cities metro area is a product of race and class. Yet curing this discrimination does not reside in the elimination of single family housing through changes in zoning or a comprehensive plan. Such an approach, call it neoliberal zoning, is destined to achieve the same results in land use that neoliberalism achieved economically over the last 40 years domestically and internationally.

Residential housing patterns are the product of discrimination. Private discriminatory preferences coupled with market decisions were enabled by racial covenants, government redlining, and zoning to produce the segregation patterns we see today. Countless books, such as Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton’s classic “American Apartheid,” tell this story well. Nearly 25 years ago at the University of Minnesota, I helped author a study pointing to the Twin Cities metro region being the third most segregated urban area in the nation. More recently, the U’s Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity located persistent segregation in the placement of low-income housing and education policy choices that concentrate low-income people of color in specific neighborhoods and schools.

Metrowide solution needed

Fixing this segregation demands a metrowide solution. Yet Minneapolis has acted on its own via its Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan to address this problem. Its solution mostly includes elimination of single-family zoning, believing that intensification of land use along with market incentives will encourage the building of more housing. Presumably this market-driven approach will mean more housing in more places, thereby fixing the economic and racial residential discrimination.

Both a New York Times article and current Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson have lauded this market-driven fix. Unfortunately, this approach will fail, exacerbating existing problems.

Again, the Minneapolis approach to liberating the market to address its housing woes is neoliberal zoning. Neoliberalism is the term used to describe a series of U.S. domestic and international economic policies that begin with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (in the UK) and continued through Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and into the present with Donald Trump. Neoliberals believe that a return to market fundamentalism – cutting government regulation and business taxes along with globalization in free trade – would rejuvenate domestic and world economies.

photo of article author
David Schultz
The reality, as many economists such as Thomas Piketty, Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz have described and statistics show, is that neoliberalism has produced the greatest gaps between the rich and poor in the U.S. since before the Great Depression. The rich have truly gotten richer, with the middle and lower classes gaining little. Maybe we are overall richer as a nation as a result of neoliberalism, but the externalities of these policies have produced powerful economic inequities that overlap with race.

The elimination of single-family zoning to encourage intensified land use across the city rests on a similar logic that will yield parallel results. In theory the breaking up of large single-family houses in south Minneapolis will produce more housing, but it is doubtful it will be low-income or affordable. Conversely, permitting the breakup of existing homes in north Minneapolis into multifamily units or their demolishing and replacement with multiple units also will not guarantee affordable housing in integrated neighborhoods. This is a recipe for gentrification as developers will enter areas, buy homes, and dislocate current residents by building more high-end units.

Ignores the way housing markets work

The Minneapolis comp-plan fix ignores the realities of the way housing markets work. While there may be a local demand for affordable housing, housing is also a national market sensitive to price, profit, and cost issues that often are not local. Developers have few incentives to provide affordable housing.

Beyond the fact the neoliberal zoning will not fix the segregation problems, elimination of single-family zoning will produce additional problems. One, there is an inherent value in preserving a mixture of uses — from a historic preservation perspective but also in terms of how a multiplicity of uses, ages, and styles of buildings and residential options appeals to the widest variety of individuals. As Jane Jacobs, perhaps the greatest 20th-century scholar on cities, wrote in her “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” cities are generators of diversity; it is that which makes them interesting and centers of commerce. Two, phasing out single-family zoning does not eliminate a demand for these types of units and people seeking them, often middle class and those starting families, will flee to the suburbs. Three, for many, single-family homes represent a sense of community, connectedness, and stability that are worth preserving. Finally, given how interconnected residential and education discrimination are, tackling one without addressing the other dooms solving both problems.

Minneapolis’ population is exploding, and more housing is needed to address that demand. This housing needs to address all income levels and needs, and be spatially distributed in a way that is economically and racially fair. Unfortunately, Minneapolis’s neoliberal zoning policies will do little to address these issues.

David Schultz is a Hamline University professor of political science. He is a former city director of code enforcement, zoning, and planning and a former housing and economic planner.


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Comments (67)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/26/2019 - 08:48 am.

    Attt’s what I keep sayin! Nice to see the references and definition of neoliberalism. Thanks for the article Professor Schultz.

    I keep saying these policies and the mentality behind them are about manifesting an “urban experience” that affluent neoliberals are imagining. They don’t seem realize that their fantasy isn’t universal or inevitable. And NONE of this makes sense in terms of “affordable” housing. In fact the constant appeal to “supply and demand” rationale’s borders on magical thinking.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/26/2019 - 10:12 am.

      As bad as Schultz’s piece is, even he would disagree with your take on supply and demand, which is a fundamental concept of economics. Its like gravity – it exists whether you believe in it or not. It is responsible for how much you pay for just about everything.

      • Submitted by Steve Subera on 06/26/2019 - 12:56 pm.

        There’s a difference between supply and demand existing and how it actually works in the housing market. If there were no affordable housing requirements or subsidies at the Ford Site in St. Paul would Ryan Companies build anything for the lowest incomes even with the demand that exists? Not if they could just build for the demand for market rate housing. Would that new supply of market rate housing lower prices of existing properties in St. Paul enough to help those with low incomes? I don’t know because I don’t know how much supply (over time) is possible or desired by the builders and how much demand there will be at all the various income levels.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/26/2019 - 02:12 pm.


        The constant references to supply and demand as a bedrock cause of prices is somewhat comforting in it predictability, but it nevertheless remains a faith-based proposition. In any complex market (and real estate is very complex market) several different actors working in concert at times, and simply there own best interests other times, prevent simplistic supply side economic determinations. S&D may be the only economic “principle” some people are familiar with, but that doesn’t make center of gravity in any economic system.

        • Submitted by Carol Becker on 07/06/2019 - 08:17 am.

          The problem is not simple supply and demand but a couple other economic principles. First, housing is terribly inelastic. People need one and only one roof over their heads. Housing is not like bananas where people buy more bananas when prices drop and buy fewer when prices go higher. People will pay almost anything to have a place to sleep.

          The second problem is market failure. It costs too much to build low income housing without subsides. We know that Fulton Realty put together a seminar on building triplexes and according to them, to make a triplex work, you have to rent each unit for $3000 a month. The city’s affordable housing person says units are costing about $275,000 each. Affordable housing has now become a merit good. The marketplace does not simply provide.

      • Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 06/27/2019 - 09:22 am.

        “On no conclusion is this book more clear: Left to themselves, economic forces do not work out for the best except perhaps, for the powerful.”

        John Kenneth Galbraith
        (the late) Paul M. Warburg Prof. of Economics, Harvard University

    • Submitted by Drew Gmitro on 06/27/2019 - 01:16 am.

      You’ll never get the “Liberal utopian dream” of diversity and low income living with middle and upper income. Never happen. If low income, minorities move into an upper middle class neighborhood, those upper middle class homes will instantly go on the market. It’s always been that way, and it’ll always be that way. When you give something to an individual for free, ala housing, they don’t take care of it like someone who earned it and paid for it. It’s human nature, like the truth or not. So you’ll either end up with the status quo and nothing will change or, if “mini-projects” are built next to single family homes, these single families will move out of Minneapolis for other high end suburbs. So all you’ll end up doing is replacing single family neighborhood’s with a bunch of “mini-projects” for low income. It’s simply a fact.

  2. Submitted by Tara Beard on 06/26/2019 - 09:07 am.

    I support the the elimination of exclusively single-family zoning in the city, but I wholeheartedly agree that it will do NOTHING to improve racial disparities in housing or prevent gentrification. But I disagree with the author that ‘upzoning’ will make disparities worse. Increasing density is a MUST if we want to address climate change, bankrupt infrastructure budgets and make affordable housing development possible. The idea that this policy change will render huge swaths of neighborhoods without any more single family housing or no community stability is ridiculous. If people look at the last comp plan and see what land was guided for, and look on the ground and see what’s been built, non-planners may start to realize that a comp plan is one leg of a many many legged stool that influences how cities grow and change (a point the author makes well). For urban integrity we need to allow more density, but the lack of OTHER policies (like reparations, way more homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate- households of color, anti-NIMBY policies) mean that our racial equity and affordable housing issues will just continue along, perhaps in slightly different redevelopment patters per the Mpls Plan..

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 06/26/2019 - 05:46 pm.

      However you overlook that many people of all backgrounds want a home with a small yard and some privacy. This is a very good article that recognizes the complexities. The other issue that it gives more power to developers and forces those of us with limited resources to compete. People then move further out, causing more traffic if they can’t find what they want in the city.

      • Submitted by Tara Beard on 06/27/2019 - 08:58 am.

        If people want a small home with their own yard they can still have that – allowing more density doesn’t make that illegal or difficult. What makes it difficult is how darn expensive it is, which is the case whether we allow density or not.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2019 - 12:10 pm.

          Well, the fewer single family homes with yards you have in MPLS, the more difficult it would be to find one, so yes, that will become more difficult is development conforms to your expectations. Yeah, if people “want” their own homes and yards, they can always move out of the city, but how does THAT grow the MPLS population? You’re assuming that some majority of people want to live the way you do, or envision, what basis do you have for making THAT assumption?

          • Submitted by Tom Crain on 07/03/2019 - 08:14 am.

            “Well, the fewer single family homes with yards you have in MPLS, the more difficult it would be to find one”

            Precisely. This is the immutable law of supply and demand.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2019 - 10:25 am.

              Dude, we’re talking about the “type” of housing, not the quantity. If you build neighborhoods no one wants to live in, it doesn’t matter how much of it you build. People aren’t going to move to MPLS just because you build, you have to build housing and neighborhoods people want to live in.

              Clearly, this looks like a neighborhood YOU want to live in. The question is whether or not you are trend or a fad? Do you represent a new normal, or are you outlier? Historically there’s no precedent in the US that supports a long term trend towards the neighborhood you want to live in. The most likely scenario is that we’ll see more high density housing in the suburbs, along transit routes, rather a massive re-population of the city driven by more density in the city. If you look at how cities grow, this is what you see. You see density spread outward, you don’t see density concentrating more and more within city limits.

              • Submitted by Carol Becker on 07/06/2019 - 08:21 am.

                Saying this is about “density” really misses the point. The City is projected to grow 10% over the next 20 years. You can concentrate that growth into existing walkable neighborhoods and at transit nodes or you can scatter that growth over dozens of square miles. Unfortunately the City did not choose the one that would improve walkability or transit use.

    • Submitted by John Evans on 06/26/2019 - 06:52 pm.

      Right. Easing zoning restrictions, along with height and parking restrictions, does not address racial segregation in housing patterns. Zoning reform is, however a necessary, though not sufficient condition to meet before we can address segregation and discrimination in housing.

      Schultz’s article seems to be riddled with red herrings. For instance, he’s right that a metro-wide solution is needed. You might even argue that it’s a problem the state legislature should take up. But that’s no reason the cities should not reform their zoning policies.

      I’m not sure why Schultz thinks it “ignores the way housing markets work,” other than that the phrase sounds damning. You will still be free to build a single family house on your lot. Cities with fewer zoning restrictions still have entire neighborhoods of single family homes.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2019 - 12:19 pm.


        Schulz’s isn’t condemning the notion of zoning changes, that’s YOUR red herring. He’s just arguing that these changes won’t produce the results planners are hoping for.

        I recognize that Schultz’s claim regarding the reality of housing markets is a jarring claim for those who pretend to be experts, but even a cursory look at their expertise reveals serious deficiencies.

        See my comments regarding references to supply and demand and vacancy rates for instance. The “density” assumptions are also quite suspicious. The assumption that tens of thousands or even just thousands of people will want spend their lives in tiny houses in someone else’s back yard, or apartments is also suspicious. By the time we get to the claim that these new zoning laws will make construction and remodeling “cheaper” it’s pretty time to say: “Goodnight Gracie”.

  3. Submitted by Alex Schieferdecker on 06/26/2019 - 09:31 am.

    This is a strange article, which bounces back and forth between so many contradictory frames and references that I’m not sure what to make of much of it.

    For instance, Professor Schultz writes, “fixing this segregation demands a metrowide solution.” Then, at the end of the article, he instead argues that housing is a national market “sensitive to price, profit, and cost issues that often are not local.”

    Well, which is it? Is housing a local, regional, or national issue? Apparently whichever scale serves to meet the needs of the author’s argument at any given time.

    To pull a second example, the author also appears to have completely misread the work of Jane Jacobs. It is true that Jacobs supported a mixing of uses. But the neighborhood she championed, Greenwich Village, was and is typified by a dense mixture of different types of housing. To use Jacobs in support of single-family-only zoning is a complete misunderstanding of her work and ideas.

    To rebut every baffling contortion in this article would take an article of three times the length, so let me just return to the basic facts:

    1. Euclidian zoning suppresses the potential housing capacity of a city.
    2. The Twin Cities have extremely low vacancy rates for housing, suggesting that there is not enough supply in the regional market.
    3. Housing prices are increasing at a rate that is generally inversely correlated with vacancy rates.
    4. To both create greater affordability in the housing market and more affordable housing, more housing is needed, and more cheap housing is needed.
    5. The Minneapolis zoning reforms will increase the potential housing capacity of the city.
    6. The Minneapolis zoning reforms will allow new small to medium-scale multi-family housing, which is the cheapest type of housing to build, own, and rent, to be built in more places.

    No amount of hand waving and name calling can argue its way out of these essential details.

    Mr. Schultz should drop the urban theory and housing economic arguments that he plainly does not understand, and instead come clean about what he means when he writes that “single-family homes represent a sense of community, connectedness, and stability that are worth preserving,” which I suspect is the true foundations for his personal objections.

    • Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 06/26/2019 - 12:41 pm.

      Let me try. What Prof. Schultz appears to be advocating is the value of home ownership. Building modern-day tenements will not advance the cause of racial equity or social equality, except by a severe and counterproductive leveling process. I live on a S. Minneapolis block of single family houses that is like a small village. Seeing more people of color there, with a long-term stake in the location, would be very welcome. On the other hand, a close family member rents in a very nice 3-story apartment building near a light rail station. Perfect for a single person or a couple without children. But I regularly ask whether s/he has gotten to know anyone else in the building — the answer many months later is still no. I know better than to ask about the remaining (non-displaced) homeowners on the block. It’s not necessarily smug to appreciate the communitarian factors that have made our metro area, year in and year out, one of the most livable in the nation.

      • Submitted by Paul Lambie on 06/28/2019 - 09:46 am.

        I believe you are either mistaken in understanding the Mpls plan, or disingenuous in comparing your family members experience of not knowing any of their neighbors in a nice 3-story apartment building near light rail (probably 50-100+ units) to a maximum 4-unit building being created on a block of single-family homes. I’m pretty sure your family member would know some of their neighbors, if they lived in such a building, which I can attest from the experience of a close family member of mine. Single-family homes being razed to build 50-100 unit apartment buildings would totally change the character of neighborhoods. Duplexes, triplexes, and four-plexes not so much.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/28/2019 - 10:12 am.

        Apartments are not necessarily unfriendly. It depends on the way the managers structure things.

        Back in Portland, I lived in a building where the managers made coffee and cookies available in the mail room and held rooftop barbecues during the summer. The building was twelve stories tall, but I knew a lot of the residents, to the extent that I regularly received more than one invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.

        My current building is much smaller, but the manager, as helpful and conscientious as he is when it comes to maintenance and repairs, is not oriented toward providing social activities, so there is little interaction among the tenants.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/29/2019 - 10:11 am.

        When I lived in an apartment we didn’t know any of our neighbors. We knew the building manager, but that was it. I’m a friendly guy who talks to everyone (sometimes to the embarrassment of my wife) but most people kept to themselves and the turnover in the building high enough that long term relationships were simply not an option. The most interaction I tended to have with apartment neighbors was banging on their doors to ask that they turn their music down.

        I’m not saying this is a universal experience but it was our experience, and it’s an experience shared by almost everyone we know who is or has lived in an apartment.

        I know a lot of “density” enthusiasts share a dream of “community” emerging from more people living closer together but there’s little reason to believe that density alone promotes more interpersonal interaction.

        I grew on a suburban street in St. Louis Park where we all knew each other played and with each other. We knew the neighbors that didn’t have kids, and we mowed their lawns, played in their yards, climbed their trees, at the apples on their apples trees, etc. etc. And our childless neighbors knew us and our parents (A discovery we made when confronted by parents who’d received phone calls when our adventures went wrong one way or another). This wasn’t a “dense” neighborhood, it was literally the post war suburb that everyone started complaining about and the Monkey’s described in: “Pleasant Valley Sunday”. But in many ways it WAS the community that contemporary urbanists dream about.

        We did however have absolutely no racial diversity of any kind. In my 1981 graduating class (we were the last of baby boomers) there were maybe two Hispanics, four Blacks (and two of them were brother and sister), and maybe three Asians. I did grow up with a lot of Jews however.

        My point is that by the time my wife and I bought our house in this suburb, that neighborhood, that community I’d grown up was in the process of disappearing. I’m not being nostalgic, I’m just making an observation. This disappearance had nothing to do with density or zoning.

        I’d say the biggest factor was the real estate market and neoliberal mentalities that had converted housing into a wealth building program. The net effect of this was unstable neighborhoods where at any given time at least two houses on the block were up for sale. The house next door has had 5 owners since we bought our house in 1993. Of the 24 or so houses on my block, 4 of them are still owned by people who were living there when we moved in. When I grew up, by the age of 14 maybe three houses on the entire block had changed hands in those 14 years.

        For a long time, until the Great Recession in fact, the people buying these houses weren’t planning on staying here, and simply were not interested in the neighborhood or their neighbors. These were “starter” homes for people on the path towards… well I’m not sure anyone really knew what path they were actually on.

        The other thing that seemed to break down community was parenting styles. Parents stopped letting their kids play in the neighborhood unsupervised. Everything was organized, and scheduled, and located somewhere else. Parent’s even stopped letting their kids trick or treat for a while there, taking them to the malls instead. Now parents follow kids around like stalkers on Halloween. The upshot of THAT was we didn’t the kids, and they didn’t know us.

        Yet another component was charter schools and open enrollment. Kids who live in the same neighborhood aren’t even going to the same school anymore, and the kids in school don’t live in the neighborhood. They’re not even on the same buses, if they’re on buses at all.

        NONE of this is remotely included in programs like 2040. I actually think part of the problem is that the density enthusiasts and urbanists of today are from a generation that’s never actually lived in the kinds of neighborhoods they dream about. The generation designing these density regimes is by-and-large the generation that grew up during the post 80’s real estate era, an era devoid of the kinds of neighborhoods they now want to create.

        What we’re trying to point out here is that the neoliberal models and mentality that deconstructed our communities can’t imagine a “solution” that will reconstruct them. They haven’t lived it, it’s all theoretical and abstracted.

    • Submitted by Jeremy Hoffman on 12/05/2019 - 11:15 am.

      Thank you for this eloquent rebuttal, Me. Schieferdecker. I too was amazed that Mr. Schultz would cite Jane Jacobs’s seminal book “Death and Life of Great American Cities” to argue AGAINST dense urban infill.

      In mentioning people fleeing to suburbs, Mr. Schultz reminds me of the mayor of Beverly Hills, California who argued, paradoxically, that legalizing multi-family homes in his exclusionary city would INCREASE commutes, because “everyone will just move farther away to get the single-family homes they prefer.” It’s such a revealing statement: it’s as if the residents of multi-family homes don’t exist in the mayor’s conception of a city, only those with the desire — and the wealth! — to live in single-family homes.

      Look, these issues of housing affordability, equity, displacement, diversify, transportation, and environmental sustainability are complex. There’s no single solution that fixes all of them. But any future where we make progress will involve dense urban infill. There’s no scenario where we perpetuate the mid-20th century exclusionary, car-dependent zoning that bans more affordable, dense, diverse forms of multi-family housing.

  4. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 06/26/2019 - 09:39 am.

    I’m no defender of neoliberalism, but this is an odd and IMO wrong use of the term “neoliberal” here. Simply put, this well-worn concept refers to a society or policy approach organized according to markets. Neoliberal approaches are typically contrasted with non-market alternatives, such as rights-based policies (e.g. a universal right to housing), societies organized around ideals (e.g. nationalist tariffs), or systems that do not rely on individually owned and exchanged private property as a foundation (e.g. public housing or land trusts).

    Zoning codes that require single-family homes are not an alternative to real estate markets or market-based approaches. Instead, they’re quite the opposite, it seems to me, given how existing real estate markets, mortgages, and the like have played central roles in all kinds of harmful financialization shenanigans.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Jane Jacobs was not a champion of single-family neighborhoods. Again, the opposite is true. She championed a diversity of housing types. A fundamental mixture of land uses was the bedrock of her urban philosophy, and I daresay she’d be a fan of Minneapolis 2040 (if she’d even deign to consider Minneapolis a city at all).

    • Submitted by Jeffrey Klein on 06/26/2019 - 12:12 pm.

      “Neoliberal” has become a pretty meaningless term, but to the extent it has meaning, I’d say it refers not just to a market approach but in particular one that is global in nature, and favors big centralized players.

      I agree with Bill’s assessment (and Alex and Anton). Opening up the city to mostly fairly small development is the opposite, because it’s about a locally functioning market (nobody would frame the original development of Minneapolis as “neoliberal” even though it was a product of markets). If anything, suburban single family home development, with its federal subsidies and ties to global finance, is “neoliberal”.

      Truly a baffling piece of writing.

  5. Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/26/2019 - 10:08 am.

    Schultz is generally terrible, but this might be the most dishonest thing he has ever written. The bit on the “community, connectedness and stability” of single family homes reveals his true NIMBYist motivations.

  6. Submitted by Anton Schieffer on 06/26/2019 - 10:37 am.

    Referring to something you don’t personally like as “neoliberal” does not make it true. Minneapolis has one of the most progressive city councils in the country, and comparing the comprehensive plan (passed 12-1) to the policies of Reagan, Thatcher, and Donald Trump is laughable to anyone who’s paying attention.

    We need more housing in Minneapolis. The status quo is not providing it. Vacancy rates have been around 3 percent for half a decade (a healthier rate is around 6 or 7 percent, and an even higher one would actually put pressure on landlords to *lower* rents). Lack of homes means housing costs for homebuyers are skyrocketing as well. One thing that’s consistent about those opposed to the 2040 plan is they propose no alternative for solving the housing affordability problem.

    Housing costs are out of control in almost every major city in the United States, and Minneapolis is actually taking steps to do something about it. There’s more work to be done over the short term (more $ for affordable housing, better protections for tenants, etc.), but without the long-term changes called for in the new comprehensive plan, we’d be stuck with band-aid solutions to systemic problems.

    The status quo is not working, and it would be easy for our city council to do nothing, as many other cities have done. I applaud this city for taking the housing affordability problem head-on, understanding the structural issues causing it, and creating a plan that addresses those issues.

    • Submitted by Carol Becker on 07/06/2019 - 08:26 am.

      Schultz does a quick overview of what neo-liberal means but here is a short primer. It means reducing regulations to let the free market take care of problems. It was promoted by Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and the conservative (pre-Trump) movement.

      What Minneapolis has done is argue that if we just reduce regulations on developers, that the marketplace will provide all the housing that we need. But we know that this is not true. So the questions is, why was this done in the first place?

  7. Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/26/2019 - 11:02 am.

    I just read through this piece a second time and I am completely baffled by the (attempts at) logic used.

    Schultz says that discriminatory residential housing patterns were enabled by “racial covenants, government redlining and zoning”. Ok, that’s fine. But then Schultz says that elimination of those zoning rules under the 2040 plan will achieve the same result. What? Getting rid of the bad thing will accomplish the same as the bad thing?

    I would love a metro-wide solution, but that simply isn’t going to happen. It took an immense amount of work just to get this through Minneapolis. So, in Schultz’s mind, if we can’t fix everything in one fell swoop, we do nothing? Maybe Minneapolis’s action is the start of a metro-wide movement.

    Not that Schultz even makes an effort to back up his claim that the comp plan doesn’t understand how housing markets work, but he is wrong. Housing prices are high because the vacancy rate is very low. There is a housing shortage. And cities that have aggressively added housing have seen housing costs alow and even fall.

    “Neoliberal” has become a pretty meaningless term anyway, but using it here has rendered it to just meaning something you don’t like. Man, if the Minneapolis city counsel is considered Neoliberal now, I give up.

    Schultz also engages in a fair amount of strawman-ism, attributing things to the comp plan that aren’t there. No one is claiming its the solution to every problem.

    As I said in my other comment, Schultz really gives away his true motivation in community and stability comment about single family zoning, notwithstanding his earlier bit about the zoning being racist. This is a piece written in bad faith all the way around.

  8. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 06/26/2019 - 11:10 am.

    I may have received my Political Science degree from a competing MIAC institution, but I struggle to understand how “The Minneapolis comp-plan fix ignores the realities of the way housing markets work” supports the argument “We must continue to distort housing markets and suppress people’s preferences by continuing a regime of heavy-handed social engineering through the mechanism of banning everything but one option for the vast majority of our land.”

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/26/2019 - 11:41 am.

    Alas, much of the criticism of Professor Schultz’s piece seems based on something approaching an “either / or” binary or zero-sum mind set that seems to me to miss the mark. I’ve disagreed with the professor in the past, but in this instance, I think his critique of the city’s 2040 plan, as well as his brief explanation of why some sort of plan is necessary, is spot-on. It seems possible to me, for example, that housing and its costs could be subject to BOTH local / regional quirks and policy decisions as well as national trends and policy decisions. “Redlining,” for example, can take different forms in different communities, some of them more influenced by local prejudice than others, but the outcome is nonetheless remarkably similar.

    My experience on the fringes of city government here and elsewhere is pretty much in line with the professor’s explication of how we got where we are. To relatives in St. Louis, the Minneapolis housing market is quite expensive – prohibitively so for those of modest income there. That said, and having moved here from metro Denver, I can state with at least some authority that the Minneapolis housing market is a bargain compared to the Colorado Front Range. My current home in north Minneapolis would sell for 30% less in metro St. Louis, and at least 30% more in metro Denver.

    Today marks my 10th anniversary as a Minneapolis property owner, and, having lived in St. Louis for half a century previously – with a dozen years in Colorado tossed into the mix as well – the pattern of race / class / income segregation evident in the Twin Cities doesn’t strike me as significantly different from what a reasonable observer would find in either one of those other metro areas. I absolutely agree with the professor that a metro-wide solution is called for, and if the Met Council has the ability and authority to twist municipal arms in both the Twin Cities themselves as well as the surrounding counties and cities, I hope it will do so – calmly but relentlessly.

    At the same time, housing discrimination is not exclusively a local problem, and part of the fix(es) ought to come from the federal and state government levels. My personal bias is that there’s not an automatic contradiction between single-family and multi-family housing. Without in any way defending “McMansions,” which I mostly abhor, perhaps the clearest message I got from Jane Jacobs’ work is the importance of VARIETY to a successful city – variety in both business and housing types and sizes.

    I don’t think there’s a single “magic bullet” that will solve this issue – there are a multitude of choices that responsible authorities need to make, and continue to make – but doing nothing, effectively throwing up our collective hands and saying “It’s too complicated,” simply continues the trends that created the problem in the first place. It’s not a constructive response, and if the goal of policy at local, state and federal levels is a more equitable society, the obsessive self-interest that too often characterizes these sorts of discussions has to be put aside. Even if I / we don’t much care for the professor’s specific solution proposals, his description of how we got to this place is correct, in my view, and I note that critics of his remedies are not themselves offering up alternatives that will reach the goal of a more humane and equitable community.

  10. Submitted by James Baker on 06/26/2019 - 11:48 am.

    This might be a larger topic than simply providing more affordable housing.

    First, do markets manage themselves without government interference? If so, one is tempted to think that if supply of something is clearly restricted such that prices are forced up and out of reach for sectors of society that lack adequate income to afford them, that developers would see an opportunity to make more housing available.

    Why does this not seem to be happening? The demand clearly seems to be there. In another post on this topic, a commenter who is a builder stated that the reason those units are not being built is that the costs of construction have escalated beyond what low/moderate income people in need of housing are able to pay (wage increases have not kept pace with housing development costs). Simple. There’s no money in it, so builders won’t invest. That’s just basic bottom line entrepreneurial math.

    The larger and more essential question then becomes: why have we allowed large and growing populations to be left out of earning a livable wage that would enable them to buy decent housing? And how can this be fixed? If it isn’t, the affordable housing problem doesn’t seem to be solvable going forward—unless governments are willing to subsidize affordable housing construction.

    Yet, even if this were to happen it doesn’t create meaningful work at a livable wage that provides the spirit and harmony of livable communities populated by individuals who are motivated by purpose and a sense of importance in their lives.

    The problem of inequity in the labor market is glossed over in this discussion; failure to solve it will probably continue to confound urban housing and other social policies, likely resulting in less satisfying and more trying community fabrics—and, yes, de facto segregation along racial and economic lines.

    • Submitted by Chris Johnson on 06/30/2019 - 02:38 pm.

      Yes, exactly! Finally someone has noticed and commented on the real problem. The whole notion of “affordable housing” as some magical result of zoning changes (or just about any other city or county or state-level program which ignores the wage issue) is just crazy.

      Developers are not going to build homes that sell for “affordable” prices when it generally requires them to lose money; construction is extremely expensive. If they are built via some clever government program which helps the developer make a profit but provides homes at some price considered “affordable” (rent or purchase), how the does that work for any length of time?

      In the former case, below-market rents have to be forever subsidized beyond the initial subsidy to get them built. In the latter case, how does the owner afford to maintain the property they’ve bought? News flash: owning and maintaining a home is still expensive, even after getting over the purchase hurdle.

      So many “affordable housing” projects have failed over the decades for precisely that latter reason.

      I grimace almost every time I read a story about some poor (in the sense of bad luck) low-income person obtaining a home via some program. They are thrilled to have a wonderful new or renovated home of their own. Yay. Then what do they do when some too few years on the furnace dies completely, and they need to come up with multiple-5 figures of cash to buy and install a new one? And that exterior? Affordable homes are not built of concrete and brick, but of materials which weather, deteriorate and need endless maintenance.

      What does it take to fix this? Financial where with all. And that comes from more equitable income distribution, living wages, universal heath care, etc. Minneapolis may have its heart in the right place, but virtually everyone is effectively just about clueless about how vibrant, healthy cities actually work.

      Maybe I should coin a parallel term to educationism here, the faulty notion that better schools will close the income gap, rather than the other way around. 2040 is a facet of “densificationism” or “upzoningism” or some better, more clever term. It’s the faulty notion that unfettered zoning will close the income gap and racial disparities.

  11. Submitted by John Evans on 06/26/2019 - 12:15 pm.

    Well, I can’t imagine a solution to the descriminatory housing patterns in the Twin Cities that doesn’t include substantially easing the shortage of low-moderate income housing.

    And I can’t imagine a solution to that shortage that doesn’t involve building lots of relatively low-cost multi-unit buildings and making sure they are well distributed throughout the metro area.

    Nor can I imagine how we’re going to accommodate this growth without easing zoning restrictions and parking requirements, and increasing density along transit lines.

    I don’t see how arguing about neoliberalism advances that discussion.

    • Submitted by James Baker on 06/26/2019 - 09:05 pm.

      Unless I’m missing something, there is an apparent shortage of affordable housing, there are builders who could—and as entrepreneurs whose business interests include making a profit on projects—would under the right conditions strive to meet the built up demand.

      But the builders are not stepping up to construct the units that people lacking the resources to buy or rent acceptable housing are seeking.

      I referred to a builder who commented on this topic in another article who said he can’t make a profit building affordable units because prices of construction materials have risen over the last several decades faster than wages. So he’s stuck. No doubt, he and others in the construction industry would love to get contracts to build those units. How do we help him get the work done?

      Even if those units somehow get built (seemingly the only way would be with public subsidies) the long-term problem of inadequate income to support a decent middle class lifestyle doesn’t go away.

      Too many people are laboring for lower wages than are fair (given the unequal distribution of income) and in many cases are weighed down with education-related debt so are limited in their housing choices.

  12. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/26/2019 - 01:37 pm.

    We have plenty of people who can say what won’t work, but mighty few who suggest what will work. Families with children are best served by single family homes, but where does everyone else live? A progressive city like Minneapolis with many living as single adults or couples without children have better lives if they have less house and shorter drives.

  13. Submitted by Joe Musich on 06/26/2019 - 03:27 pm.

    I must say that in my opinion it is hard to argue as I see others trying to with only opinion themselves what is said here,..”…As Jane Jacobs, perhaps the greatest 20th-century scholar on cities, wrote in her “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” cities are generators of diversity; it is that which makes them interesting and centers of commerce. Two, phasing out single-family zoning does not eliminate a demand for these types of units and people seeking them, often middle class and those starting families, will flee to the suburbs. Three, for many, single-family homes represent a sense of community, connectedness, and stability that are worth preserving. Finally, given how interconnected residential and education discrimination are, tackling one without addressing the other dooms solving both problems…”Market driven responses are not having healthy effects in other cities. Look closely at “progressive” SanFrancisco.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/28/2019 - 03:27 pm.

      “Flight” to the suburbs could work entirely differently. Building more high-end housing in desirable locations in Minneapolis could push the lower income families to the suburbs where the housing becomes less desirable due to the longer commute times. Of course there will be external effects on adjacent communities due to increased density in Minneapolis.

  14. Submitted by David Markle on 06/26/2019 - 03:57 pm.

    It seems pretty clear that the new official plan may, in time, help produce higher density of housing, but much less clear that it will help level economic disparities or reduce what appears to be discrimination.

    Construction costs money, and the City no longer allows developers to erect “Belmar bummers” as it did in the 1950’s and ’60’s.

  15. Submitted by David Thompson on 06/26/2019 - 04:03 pm.

    I don’t agree with Schultz’s logic, and I strongly object to his use of the term “neoliberal”. That’s not an argument! However, I do agree with his conclusion: Eliminating restrictive zoning won’t add more affordable housing. You’re going to need Section 8 quotas for that. New construction costs more per living unit than existing housing. If you tear down a house, you have to recover your cost of land acquisition plus you cost of construction, plus make a profit. Market forces will never give that to you. The rooming house that was torn down on 24th and Colfax was replaced by an apartment building where studio apartments cost $1000/month. What is affordable about that?

  16. Submitted by Darren Jeffers on 06/26/2019 - 04:09 pm.

    David, my dude, you are arguing against yourself here. Eliminating single family zoning will not eliminate single family homes, but it will allow them to co-exist alongside multiplexes and mixed-uses. That’s the diversity you are seemingly encouraging!

    • Submitted by Tara Beard on 06/27/2019 - 09:01 am.


    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2019 - 12:26 pm.

      Darren, you’re assuming that people who want to living in single family homes will also want to live next door to multi-family homes. That might be your “dream”, but the history of housing in the US over the last several decades doesn’t support that prediction. You could just as easily trigger another round of suburban flight and urban depopulation.

      • Submitted by Scott Walters on 07/02/2019 - 12:33 pm.

        I seriously doubt living next to a duplex that looks just like a single family house, or a triplex, will drive anyone to abandon their home and flee to the suburbs. Lot coverage rules remain, so the duplex or triplex can’t be any bigger than a single family home built on the same lot. My block in St. Paul Midway had several duplexes on it, and they were physically indistinguishable from the single family homes around them.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/03/2019 - 10:06 am.

          Scott, you can doubt however seriously or not as you see fit. However if you think the only difference between living next a house with three or four families in it, and living next to a single family, is the appearance of the house, and whether or not someone wants to live next to something that “looks” like that… your doubts are probably misdirected.

  17. Submitted by Kathie Noga on 06/26/2019 - 05:17 pm.

    I would say that government, coops and non-profits would be the ones who would be in the position to build affordable housing, not private industry. In a recent case of a slumlord’s building being saved for the tenants, it was the city and tenants forming a coop which help save the apartments for the tenants. This slumlord lost his license for not fixing apartments. So the tenants got to buy it through the efforts of the city and them forming of a coop through fund raising among the tenants and people of the city who wanted to support affordable housing. We have had non-profits, churches and city fund affordable housing when they team up. Coops are formed in various places all over the city from time to time. The tenants run the apartment and get people from outside to fix items when they can’t do it by themselves. These have been going on for years. We need more of these. The new apartments being built are $1,000 or more and not affordable for a lot of people out there. Affordable apartments go for $400 to $800 a month. There are some non-profits who received FHA funding to develop new housing as in the case of where I am living. We have new apartments here around us, but they cost too much for most people living here. This only helps people with higher incomes, not low income people or people who are in the lower middle class. One thing which would be helpful would be to require a certain percentage of new apartments to be rented in the affordable range of $400 to $800. City, state and federal governments need to fund new housing which is affordable. There are a few landlords who do have affordable housing out there who are creating new apartments because they want to do this. We could help them by giving them a tax credit, but they should agree to charge in the affordable range I mentioned above. That would be helpful.

  18. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/26/2019 - 06:41 pm.

    Whats that phrase: “Birds of a feather flock together” there are many reasons why folks congregate. All we need do is look down the block where there are majority rentals and surprise, lots of car buffs fixing their cars in the street, They don’t appear to want the bar raised, actually lowered would be better, in MHO.

  19. Submitted by Sandra Nelson on 06/26/2019 - 10:22 pm.

    To respondents who not only disagree with Professor Schultz, but who castigate his intelligence and intentions, what are your credentials? What is the basis of the superiority of your opinions?

    If you believe that re-zoning and density equal affordable housing, I don’t. Please share your rationale and proof. Seriously, I want to understand your position.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2019 - 10:03 am.

    Wow, you neoliberal urbanist are a feisty little swarm when someone kicks your nest eh?

    I can’t claim to speak for Mr. Schultz but I’ll offer my interpretations and response. Looking at all the comments here I think Alex kind of sums up the attack on Schultz’s piece, let’s take these one by one:

    “To rebut every baffling contortion in this article would take an article of three times the length, so let me just return to the basic facts:”

    The problem with Alex’s preamble is that it pretends that neoliberal/urbanist articles of faith are objective facts, hey are not.

    “1. Euclidian zoning suppresses the potential housing capacity of a city.”

    Euclidian zoning can be configured any way a city wants. You can zone for more housing capacity if you want to, suburbs have been zoned that way for decades.

    “2. The Twin Cities have extremely low vacancy rates for housing, suggesting that there is not enough supply in the regional market.”

    Vacancy rates are a product of deliberate inventory control, the industry seeks to keep vacancy rates around 5%, the “supply” doesn’t (and won’t) simply “emerge” from a deregulated “market”. Furthermore, vacancy rates in and of themselves don’t necessarily tell you much about supply, low supply is revealed when people complain they can’t find a place to live. The demand for housing is driven by people who want to move, not vacancy rates. In theory, a given vacancy rate, no matter how low, isn’t significant if you have a population that’s moving around within the given area. The ratio of buyers to sellers isn’t dictated by vacancy rates, its dictated by the number of people who want to buy.

    “3. Housing prices are increasing at a rate that is generally inversely correlated with vacancy rates.”

    This is simply a false claim that emerges from the supply & demand myth. Bill Lindeke published an article here on Minnpost a while back that contained a graph generated by the Met Council; THAT graph makes it appear as though there a correlation/causation between vacancy rates and rising rental prices. The problem (and I pointed this out at the time) is that the graph is statistically flawed. It creates the false impression that a 25% increase in rental prices matched by an equivalent drop in vacancy rates. In fact vacancy rates have been relatively flat for the last ten years hovering between 6% and 4.5% (the current rate is 4.5%; the average rate would be around 4.8%). The Met Council graph makes it look like a half percent drop in vacancies is equivalent to a 20+% rise in rental prices.

    Now you can claim that a 1.5% or even 2% drop in vacancy rates “causes” a 25% increase in rent prices if you want, but I’m afraid you’ll need to do more than show us a misleading graph with a distorted comparison. There is NO actual statistical analysis proving this alleged inverse “correlation”.

    “4. To both create greater affordability in the housing market and more affordable housing, more housing is needed, and more cheap housing is needed.”

    This is simply a reassertion of supply-side faith based economic “ planning. All we really have to do is note the historical fact that despite several building booms and tens of thousands of additional units built- our housing “crises” continues.

    If we want to wade even further into the weeds we can also observe that building booms don’t create “affordable” housing, they create the most profitable housing developers can build. We can also note that builders aren’t the habit of flooding the market with so much housing that they drive sales prices down. Nor does the phenomena of gentrification reveal that new expensive housing drives down the price of older housing… rising prices are a market-wide experience.

    I think this cluster of spurious assumptions (3 and 4) may represent the core of Schultz’s claim that neoliberal’s don’t understand how real estate markets actually work. These supply-vacancy = cheap housing claims are completely at odds with market reality and historical experience.

    It’s irrational to expect that developers will deliberately flood the market with cheap housing because that’s would be a bad business model. There’s also no mechanism of any kind that we can use to FORCE such a flood of cheap housing other than flat our subsidized housing. Tying all of this to vacancy rates is simply an empirical blunder.

    “5. The Minneapolis zoning reforms will increase the potential housing capacity of the city.”

    Maybe, but the level of increased capacity is unpredictable, the only thing that REALLY drives population increases is… population increases. Different zoning won’t necessarily make more people want to live in MPLS.

    “6. The Minneapolis zoning reforms will allow new small to medium-scale multi-family housing, which is the cheapest type of housing to build, own, and rent, to be built in more places.”

    This is a perfect example of a cluster of spurious assumptions driven by urban fantasy that ignores many standard features of reality.

    No new building of any kind is “cheap”. We added 80 sq. feet to our kitchen, I was the general contractor, and I did half of the work, and it STILL cost $35k. We had estimates as high as $60k.

    Building cost is based on square footage, there’s no reason to assume that building designed for multiple families will be “smaller” than existing single family homes. Most likely builders will seek to build the biggest buildings they can fit into the lot so they maximize the amount of square feet they can rent out… historically THAT’S what developers actually do. And now there are no zoning restrictions to prevent it.

    A considerable level of ignorance is required for anyone to make the claim that these zoning changes will make buildings cheaper, or cheaper to build, or rent. Anyone who’s had ANY direct experience with building or remodeling would tell you that “cheap” building isn’t an option. And we haven’t even touched bases with other basic costs such as site preparation, demolition, utilities, etc. etc. etc.

    2040 isn’t a “plan” based on economic reality, or demographic projections, or any REAL empirical analysis. 2040 is simply an urbanist attempt to use defunct neoliberal market assumptions as a mean of manifesting their own urban fantasy environment and “experience”.

    At the end of the day 2040 is just another neoliberal deregulation scheme that supposed to unleash market potential. Urbanist are assuming that the “new” market will conform to their “vision” but that expectation isn’t based on any rational analysis or historical experience.

  21. Submitted by Amy Drinken on 06/27/2019 - 10:24 am.

    I live in rural WI where we have lower housing costs, great schools, good paying jobs and all within easy walk/biking distances. Why don’t people within the city recognize these communities as opportunities for better lifestyles and a way to get out of these projects and racially divided areas and move to places with better opportunities. By reducing the number of renters within the city the demand would drop, the costs would fall and the problem would esentially ease it’s self. Why? What is the appeal of staying in a place with little to no hope?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/27/2019 - 09:20 pm.

      Well Amy, history suggests that with all that you offer it typically dosen’t include community/cultural acceptance for a lot of these folks, nor does it include a local support group which they have where they live today, Did you read the NYT St.Cloud article?

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/28/2019 - 09:03 pm.

      I grew up in rural WI, exactly none of that was true, anywhere except those areas adjacent to a major metropolitan area. Even those areas did not feature ANYTHING resembling a good paying job within easy biking/walking distance. I’m curious just what your idea of “rural” WI is, because in all my 40 years I’ve yet to experience what you’ve described.

      • Submitted by Chris Johnson on 06/30/2019 - 04:47 pm.

        I too am curious as to where Amy Drinken lives in Wisconsin. If it’s really that good, I’ll seriously consider moving there. I am not being at all sarcastic here. A walkable, reasonable-cost community with job opportunities is exactly where I would love to live — and I suspect so would others.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2019 - 10:51 am.

    There is another huge flaw with the urbanist assumptions behind a scheme like 2040, and in general. I decided to break this off and make it separate comment rather than build into my last rather lengthy comment.

    Simply put, the urbanist fantasy of “density” is simply bizarre in a variety of ways. We can all point to the problems associated with suburban sprawl, but urban density is NOT the antidote so many urban chauvinists pretend it to be.

    In not particular order we have several weird assumptions behind the “density” theory:

    1) The idea that density more efficient and economical is suspicious. Actually, there is very little empirical evidence to support this claim. Sure, once you reach a certain level of sprawl, infrastructure requirements and land use become inefficient. But the density levels that are required to produce REAL efficiency the REAL world are not clearly defined. For instance no one can claim that MPLS is more “efficient” than a first ring suburb like St. Louis Park. In fact the per-capita spending for basic service in MPLS is much higher than St. Louis Park. Part of that has to do with the older infrastructure and building stock. So for instance housing may be more dense in MPLS, but it’s not necessarily more energy efficient because the buildings and infrastructure as so much older.

    2) The idea more people clambering for more space in the city will bring prices DOWN is obviously problematic. Increasing population and demand doesn’t actually look like a sound model for reducing prices on the face of it… even IF you could produce that scenario.

    3) Urbanist keep making the claim that if you build it, people will come. This is entirely based on urban fantasies that are certainly NOT universally shared. You have to recall historical reality. Sure, during the industrial age and prior to that the populations of cities swelled at incredible rates. But that had nothing with housing preferences. People didn’t live in tenements because they WANTED to, they lived there because the job they needed, and the factories they worked at, were all in the city.

    The urban densities of the past were not driven by people chasing their dreams of urban lifestyles, they were there for the jobs. The claim that modern cities can reclaim historical populations and densities by simply building more living space ignores the fact that people will have to WANT to live there. How many people really want to spend their entire lives living in apartments? How many people want to live in a tiny house in someone else’s back yard? Why would you assume increased density will attract residents when it could just as easily drive them out when it reaches a certain level?

    Yeah, you can throw out all kinds ecological arguments, and transit rationale’s and efficiency claims, and diversity claims, etc. etc. but as Schultz point out, THAT now how buyers think in the actual real estate market.

    Urbanists are clearly imagining how much “fun” it will be to live in their dream city of density and tiny spaces, but that’s NOT a universal dream, and it’s a dream that could build a city that fewer and fewer people actually want to live in. I suppose building a city few people want to live in could be a pathway to cheap housing but, that’s actually the plan.

    The other observation that simply has to be made regards the paradox between the urbanist dream and reality of diversity. One notes that there simply is not a lot of color OR economic diversity among the urban density enthusiasts. This is NOT a dream of the poor, or even lower middle class workers.

    This is a urban experience for professionals, or retirees, who are willing and able to afford the higher rents and home prices that accompany the gentrification process. There’s really nothing about these policies or 2040 that encourages diversity, they are simply attempts to create what some people consider to be an ideal urban environment, and we don’t have to look very hard to identify the demographic characteristics of those seeking to create THAT environment.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/28/2019 - 03:37 pm.

      Your argument feels like Yogi Berra. If we build lots of apartments people will say “There are too many people in Minneapolis. That’s why nobody lives there anymore”

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/29/2019 - 10:19 am.

        Mr. Landherr,

        I’m afraid you don’t comprehend my point, OR poor Yogi. Yes, now that you mention it, historically there have been migrations out of overpopulated cities because people felt the city was overpopulated. This is documented.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2019 - 11:42 am.

    Just a note about neoliberalism or as Schultz puts it: neo-liberalism.

    The primary characteristic of neoliberal mentalities is a basic faith in market efficiencies, which leads to a politics of deregulation and minimal regulation.

    One of the most vicious developments of the late 80’s and 90’s was coalescence of neoloberal Democrats with anti government Republicans. The common ground of private sector celebration has delivered multiple crises and policy failures ranging from Great Recession to S&L collapse. I won’t go into detail but when some of us talk about failed or defunct neoliberal policies and ideology, those crises and failed policies are what we’re referring to.

    Ultimately we can illustrate how the failed neoliberal regime created and sustained the crises that created the reaction that put Donald Trump in the White House. However locally, we can just observe the fact that programs like 2040 based on neoliberal rationale’s are no more likely to succeed than Al Gore’s attempt to reinvent government in the early 90’s.

    We can make a couple observations about neoliberals themselves. For one thing, they tend to NOT be self aware. Part of that lack of insight simply emerges from the marginalization of progressives and their discourse. The term “neoloberal” isn’t a common feature of the political lexicon in the US, so people can be forgiven to some extent for now knowing that they ARE one. Furthermore, when people who think of themselves as “liberals” find out what a neoliberal is.. they tend not to want to be described as one. Famous examples of this would Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and the Clinton’s. These guys are quintessential neoliberals, but they’re constantly claiming to be “progressives”.

    By way of distinction the difference between a neoliberal and a Libertarian is that neoliberals recognize more legitimate roles for government, although they still tend to fetishize the private sector. This is why got Obamacare instead of Medicare for All. Neoliberals are also more logically coherent and reality based than Libertarians.

    The difference between a neoliberal and a flat out conservative is usually social policy, and differences over the actual roll of government. Neoliberals tend to recognize an appropriate roll for public infrastructure for instance, while conservatives have difficulty recognizing any appropriate rolls other than national defense and policing. Conservatives are also more inclined to use the government as means to enforce “values” than are neoliberals.

    Another characteristic of neoliberals is their affluence and status of privilege. By and large neoliberals tend to comfortable with the status quo, and they’re frequently baffled by the frustration and anger that the less affluent express. You saw this last night when the neoliberal candidates argued that millions of Americans are “happy” with their private health insurance. These “happy” Americans may be Democrats or Republicans, or conservatives or neoliberals, but they are NOT among the 60 million uninsured or under-insured, or bankrupted.

  24. Submitted by Bill Mantis on 06/28/2019 - 08:28 am.

    First, “market fundamentalism” would have been a better, clearer, more baggage-free term to use than “neoliberalism.”

    Second, it would have been nice to know what other solutions to the affordable housing crisis have been tried and found successful. If market fundamentalism will not work, what will? If there are no time-tested solutions to the problem, why not try a market-fundamentalist approach?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/28/2019 - 01:59 pm.

      Mr. Mantis,

      Two thing: First, policy by default is usually a bad idea. You don’t rely on an idea simply because it’s the only one on the table, the only idea on the table can be a really bad idea.

      Second, market fundamentalism produced this crises, we’re not “trying it”, we’ve been living it for decades.

      It’s legitimate to ask for other ideas, but you can’t have THAT conversation within a neoliberal framework that won’t consider any solutions or recognize any facts or perspectives beyond the scope of market fundamentalism. Neoliberals are trapped in a feedback loop.

  25. Submitted by Sarah Kesler on 06/28/2019 - 02:12 pm.

    I find this piece irritating, just as I do the”Minneapolis for Everyone” movement that is distributing the catastrophizing red signs. Both Dr. Schultz and the red sign movement spend their energy saying why the Minneapolis 2040 plan will be a failure but appear to spend absolutely no energy in coming up with an alternate solution. Back when the red signs appeared I tried to keep an open mind, so I emailed the Minneapolis for Everyone office and asked what their plan was to desegregate my neighborhood. The answer was that they had no plan, but that people needed jobs and education. I wrote them off after that. We have to try something, and no one seems to have any better ideas. It would be so nice if more people could see opening their neighborhoods to people with less money who don’t look like them as expanding the pie, rather than a zero sum game. To me, the resistance is so clearly fear based, but disguised as rational arguments.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/29/2019 - 10:29 am.


      Have you considered moving to a less segregated neighborhood?

      Again, policy by default is irrational. Just because 2040 is a plan, doesn’t mean it’s a good plan just because it’s the only one. We can observe that no one else has a plan, but that doesn’t make 2040 a good plan, or an effective plan.

      I’d have to say yet another misconception here seems to be the idea that all of these disparate and complex issues can be rolled up into the same ball. Diversity, affordability, neighborhood cohesion and community involvement, these are all complex issues in their own right, although they can influence each other. So it doesn’t necessarily make sense to ask someone who has an affordability plan whether or not they have a diversity plan.

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/01/2019 - 08:44 am.

    Just to put a finer point on the neoliberal concept in play here, Mr. Lindeke writes:

    “Zoning codes that require single-family homes are not an alternative to real estate markets or market-based approaches.”

    Well, zone code changes that remove single-family home restrictions are likewise not alternatives to market based approaches. On the contrary, code changes are purely market-based strategies that conform to neoliberal deregulation objectives. The idea here is to change the code in such a way as to unleash market efficiencies. Simply put, if you think removing single-family home restrictions will result in more efficient real estate markets, you are thinking like a neoliberal.

    This circular reasoning organized around the idea of more efficient markets IS the core concept of neoliberalism. People asking what OTHER ideas might be out there? Once you step away from neoliberalism you find that we’re talking about subsidized housing, rent controls, income disparity, education reform, racial disparity, financial reforms, etc. etc. The problem is it’s impossible to have THAT conversation with neoliberals. Anything that doesn’t circle back to market efficiencies can make it onto the neoliberal table. And again, this isn’t about empirical evidence, or real estate acumen, or reliable observations, it’s just neoliberal ideology.

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/01/2019 - 09:36 am.

    I’m sorry, I forgot to finish a thought in my last comment, so briefly: The primary flaw with the neoliberal belief in market efficiencies is that it misunderstands the nature of market efficiency in a fundamental way. Neoliberals assume that “efficient” markets will produce the best political and social results, i.e. income distributions, affordability, justice, etc. etc.

    Of course the problem is that efficient markets actually produce the opposite in many cases. An “efficient” market is a market that generates profit, it’s not a market that produces low prices and equitable wealth or income distribution, these things are irrelevant to the profit motive. The neoliberal assumption that our current dilemma emerges from an inefficient real estate market (impeded by single-family homes) ignores the fact that the market has actually been quite efficient, it’s generating a lot of profit for a lot of players. The high prices are actually a reflection of THAT efficiency. Efficient markets rarely reduce inequality, or yield low prices, this what makes neoliberalism a faith based mentality.

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