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A lot of people believe the Twin Cities needs more affordable housing; a lot fewer agree on where to build it

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison speaking during last week's forum in south Minneapolis last week. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, left, also attended.

It looked exactly like a public forum on affordable housing, complete with a congressman and a cabinet secretary listening to concerns and complaints from residents and activists.

What it turned out to be, though, was something else — more like the opening session of a peace conference between warring factions.

That’s more of what U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-Minneapolis) seemed to have in mind last week, anyway, when he invited experts and residents to talk about two approaches to the same crisis. Before the forum began, before Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro could speak to the several hundred people gathered at southeast Minneapolis’ Mayflower Church, Ellison urged them “to come here today not with an eye toward pushing your own view, but with an ear to listen to what others think. Allow the process of engagement to work on you.”

Why would Ellison need to tell people who all agree that there’s an affordable housing crisis in the Twin Cities to listen to the other side?

Because while nearly everyone at the event seemed to support more investment in affordable housing, they were split over a question that has become central to housing policy in the Twin Cities and across the country: Should regional planners push for more housing in mostly white suburbs to give low-income people the same choices others have; or should they continue to build that housing primarily in areas where low-income people already live?

Integration vs. equity-in-place

On one side are the integrators: those who think affordable housing policy and funding should be spent in ways that reverse the over-concentration of low-income housing in increasingly segregated neighborhoods. Such areas are already struggling with low economic prospects, high crime and poor-performing schools, the argument goes. At the same time, so-called high opportunity neighborhoods and suburbs don’t have enough affordable housing for those who who want to move there.

The integrators have been heartened by two recent federal decisions. One was a Supreme Court ruling upholding the legal authority of plaintiffs to assert that housing policies and practices can be illegal even if they aren’t intended to discriminate. If policies have a disparate negative impact on racial minorities, they can be found in violation of fair housing laws and statistics can be used to demonstrate such impacts.

The other favorable decision was new HUD rules requiring state and local housing programs to “affirmatively further fair housing,” which means those programs must  act to reduce segregation and assure that minorities can live where they want.

Critics of this approach are what might be called the equity-in-placers: those who think policies that create affordable housing in high opportunity areas (think mostly white neighborhoods and newer white suburbs) will end up moving money there along with people. Such disinvestment could sentence inner-city and first-ring suburbs to continued decay. Such advocates also argue that new affordable housing projects in the city— especially those near new transit lines — are helping revitalize neighborhoods. Those projects should be praised, not criticized.

As Castro summed it up: “We cannot forget our older, urban, distressed neighborhoods and the people who live there. At the same time we know that mobility is important.”

public forum on affordable housing
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Panelists at a recent forum on affordable housing speaking one-on-one with some of those who attended. From right foreground, they are state commissionor of Housing Finance Mary Tingerthal, Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel, Project for Pride in Living President Paul Williams and Met Council Member Gary Cunningham. Standing at the rear of the table is St. Paul NAACP Vice President Yusef Mgeni.

In a phone interview from Washington, D.C. Wednesday, Ellison said that both methods are necessary. “There are people in North Minneapolis who might want to live in Plymouth or Eden Prairie or Edina or Wayzata, and therefore those places should be doing affordable housing too,” he said. “But if all we do is mobility strategies, what happens to the neighbors who are left behind, and what happens to the social capital of those who don’t want to move?

In the Twin Cities, the debate has been intensified by two formal complaints filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. One is focused on the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as their joint Housing Finance Board, on behalf of three Minneapolis neighborhood groups and the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH). The other is against the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, on behalf of MICAH and three first-tier suburbs: Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center and Richfield.

Both complaints raise the same issues: that the government entities are violating federal housing law by placing too much of the region’s affordable and subsidized housing in areas that already have most of that housing. The effect is to exacerbate economic and racial segregation and therefore is in conflict with federal requirements to “affirmatively further fair housing.”

Broadening the discussion 

At the Mayflower conference, Ellison tried to broaden the discussion beyond the issues that have been raised in the complaints. “One of the reasons I wanted to have this conversation today is to lift us outside the confines of the complaint and discuss the broader issues of how affordable housing can enhance prosperity across the Twin Cities,” Ellison said. “I urge you to not be chained to the complaints … the complaints lock us into a zero sum where some win and some lose.”

Ellison said he doesn’t see solutions in the HUD complaints, though he said he doesn’t oppose them either. “No matter what happens, we’re still gonna be left with trying to figure out and plan for how to move forward in our community,” Ellison said Wednesday.

That’s often easier said than done, as the panelists chosen to talk at the event last week demonstrated. One panelist, Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel, is a lead complainant against the Met Council and the Housing Finance Agency. Another, Paul Williams, the president and chief executive officer of Project for Pride in Living, has been involved in building many of the projects at the center of two HUD complaints: new affordable housing projects in inner-city neighborhoods.

Goettel said first-tier suburbs like Richfield have taken their fair share of affordable housing, and Minneapolis and St. Paul have taken more than their share. But white suburbs haven’t taken enough. “These city neighborhoods and first-ring suburbs experience greater poverty, lower housing values, which translate to a lower tax base,” said Goettel. “They erode the quality of life and our schools.”

Maybe the political mantra of equity shouldn’t be the goal, she argued: “It’s not about equity. It’s about access. Equity could lead to separate-but-equal and the segregation we’re seeing in our communities today. Access is about opportunities, higher-paying jobs, better schools and safe communities. That is what is needed.”

She said that developers — both governmental and private — build in already impoverished areas because it is easier: “It’s harder to produce units in affluent communities. It costs more. They complain. They protest. They threaten lawsuits.” But if state and federal governments withheld funding for parks and infrastructure from communities that don’t increase their affordable housing stock, things would change.

Williams took issue with suggestions that groups like his are doing something wrong — or that they build in the inner-city and older suburbs because it is easy. Instead, the former deputy mayor of St. Paul said they do it because it can make those communities better.

“Place-making investments made a difference,” Williams said. And while he said he favors more affordable housing in areas where little now exists — sometimes called communities of choice — he said he also wants to build communities of choice in places like Frogtown and Rondo in St. Paul, where he grew up.

And then he touched a sensitive spot, asserting that a change in housing policy would require people to leave places where they grew up and still live and move to wealthy and white areas, where they aren’t comfortable. “Why is it always my folks who gotta get shipped out?” he asked to loud applause and cheers.

That brought a quick response from Ellison. Cheering is tempting, he said, “but when you start whooping it up real high the people who don’t agree with that, they harden. And then you harden. And now we have that ugly, bifurcation going.”

Stacking ‘poor people like cordwood’

A few other speakers supported increasing integration in the region through affordable housing and fair housing laws. Met Council Member Gary Cunningham is the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, a program that helps entrepreneurs of color. He spoke of the region’s “embarrassing and shameful situation” reflected in statistic that show vast disparities between blacks and whites in education, economic prospects and health. The homeownership rate for blacks, at 24 percent, is among the nation’s lowest. “While we pat ourselves on the back for what we’ve done, people are suffering in our community,” Cunningham said. He blamed a lack of political will for changing housing policies.

“Most of us know that people fought and died for our right to live where we wanted to live,” Cunningham said.

“Now, when we look at Minneapolis and St. Paul, there’s an insatiable appetite to double down in creating concentrated areas of poverty and there’s an insatiable appetite not to build affordable housing in other communities in our region,” he said.

St. Paul NAACP vice president Yusef Mgeni said in his neighborhood of Summit-University, one in four housing units is subsidized. Yet in adjacent neighborhoods, the rate is one in 50. Such segregation leads to other problems, particularly in education. “When you stack poor people upon poor people like cordwood,” the schools they attend have “significant challenges for those students, for those staff and for those communities.”

A survey of affordable housing clients showed that a vast majority place safety and quality schools at the top of their priority list.

“We need to keep that in mind as we locate affordable housing and homeownership,” Mgeni said. And he added: “I’m not in favor of people being forced to live anywhere. But the difference between diverse communities and inclusive communities is that one has narrow geographic options and the other provides choice, options, alternatives, access and affordability.”

On Wednesday Ellison said he wasn’t sure how many people changed their minds after listening to the panelists and residents who spoke. But he thinks he did get some to think about the problems more broadly.

“We’re talking about how, not whether, so there has to be some common ground,” Ellison said.

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/05/2015 - 11:15 am.

    Public housing policy should be based on income

    not race. And units should be located where it is convenient for the poor and elderly to access the government services they commonly use, like social security, the unemployment office, county welfare services and the like, i.e., on a bus line that goes downtown.

    Public servants like Ellison should know that and recognize that convenience in getting to those offices has a higher priority than trying to desegregate upper-class neighborhoods like some pandering politician would suggest. It indicates that he has no concern for his low-income constituents except on election day.

    • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 11/05/2015 - 09:32 pm.

      Those are changing, so the definition of “convenient” changes.

      How people access services is changing. You can do it online, for example. Getting around is in the process of changing as well. Self-driving cars eliminate the need for a driver’s license. All one needs is a way to get to the vehicle. Handicap vehicle needed? No problem. If the cars are all part of a public taxi fleet, then people do not have to buy cars (or insurance or parking or garages or lots of other stuff).

      It is a difficult time to be building now. Not the money, but the possibility the building will be built where it is poorly located to serve the public in the fairly near future.

    • Submitted by Barbara Lofquist on 11/08/2015 - 11:48 am.


      I agree 100%. I managed section 8 housing for 15+ years in Minneapolis . Section 8 tenants require much more ‘attention’ than market rate tenants do. There should be a time limit for staying in a section 8 unit, with reasonable expectations and progress made by the tenant to get off of the dole. The only exceptions should be the disabled and the elderly. The poverty industry is BIG business and has done much more harm than good. I have found that an employed roommate is be a great way to make housing affordable.

  2. Submitted by Shaina Brassard on 11/05/2015 - 11:54 am.

    Let’s stop investing in suburbs in general

    Absent from this discussion is the fact that with climate change, and the age of the car bound to come to an end, investing in suburbs is bad investment, period, whether it is affordable housing or new roads or other costly infrastructure that inherently serves fewer people per square mile. We need to think forward- the central cities are already seen as more attractive, as people with more wealth are actually flocking to places like the North Loop, leaving the suburbs behind. I would hate to see low income people be placed in suburbs that are not viable entities in the long term. In the short term, the cost of owning a car is estimated to be around $8,000 a year, whereas a year of transit costs less than $1000; living in suburbs places a different cost burden on low income households, since owning a car a there is a necessity.

    I say diversify where affordable housing is in the central cities- Minneapolis and St Paul and forward-thinking, dense suburbs like St Louis Park and Hopkins.

  3. Submitted by Michele Olson on 11/05/2015 - 12:29 pm.

    And I continue to shake my head at the persistent belief that the poor only live in the inner cities.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/05/2015 - 12:58 pm.

    Housing equity

    I don’t always agree with Mr. Ellison, but in this context, I think he’s right on target in urging an approach that features BOTH “equity in place” and “integration.” I spent decades living in areas that were rigidly segregated, and one of the great disappointments of arriving in Minnesota was to find that this area is, in aggregate, no different than areas with widespread reputations for segregation.

    Economic bigotry is just as ugly and ethically indefensible as is racial bigotry. That the two are often intertwined is no accident, and in a classic “chicken-and-egg” way, it’s difficult to determine whether segregated housing is the result of one kind of bigotry or the other. Much of what underlies housing segregation is zoning, which applies a thin patina of rationality to what otherwise would be readily seen as fairly blatant prejudice, baked into public policy by people who are often offended by the suggestion that what they view as reasonable is discriminatory on its face. For at least a century, suburbs have used zoning as a means of keeping out the riff-raff of people of color, new immigrants, and other groups that tend to be poor in this society.

    As a result, I’m still a fan of “inclusionary zoning” that requires communities and developers to accommodate people of modest and/or limited income, and make it possible for people of all ages and economic positions to live in a given area. At the same time, there are, I think, legitimate reasons for the validity of Paul Williams’ annoyed question: “Why is it always my folks who gotta get shipped out?”

    Affordable housing is difficult – in any modern community, not just the Twin Cities metro – in part because many of the people who like cul-de-sacs and pretentious “gated communities” are the same people who have direct, and often disproportionate, influence on housing policies and their implementation. The cliché that “Them that has, gets. Them that don’t, don’t.” is a cliché precisely because it has a core of truth.

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/05/2015 - 02:06 pm.

    Lack of affordable housing

    While everyone is bickering about WHERE to put affordable housing, none of it is actually being built, let alone at levels that meet current demand. Vacancy rates overall in the Twin Cities are too low, but if you look at units less than $1000 (not that that’s actually affordable for most people who need it), it’s even lower–right at 2%.

    My .02 on where to build affordable housing–the farther housing is from a job and other basic needs (groceries, etc.), the more expensive the housing is, regardless of rent. We can’t look at affordable housing as simply making sure that inexpensive housing is built, but we need to look at whether a person with low income can afford to LIVE there. That means we need to take a closer look at zoning laws and whether they make sense. It also means that we should be planning housing to meet the needs of the occupants. I like the concept that has taken hold for senior housing–building living facilities in the same complex as eating/shopping facilities. The concept revolves around convenience and comfort for those that have less mobility than they used to. Why not take a similar approach to people who either have limited mobility due to finances rather than aging? It overall reduces the cost to residents by placing resources in close proximity to where they live.

  6. Submitted by joe smith on 11/05/2015 - 02:35 pm.

    Geeze here we go again with social engineering and deciding where other folks should live. HUD was established in 1965 as another prong in “The War on Poverty” by LBJ, over 20 TRILLION dollars of tax payers money later we have more folks on welfare than ever, 45M of them. It is not working people. Maybe if we fixed the inner city schools and stopped the unholy alliance of tax dollars, private dollars, politicians, banks and elitists that drive the Hud machine something might change. Until then just pay out TRILLIONS and forget complaining because it hasn’t worked in 50 years but we continue down the same road. I guess P.T. Barnum was right.

    • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 11/05/2015 - 09:51 pm.

      Stop whining about how many people are on welfare.

      People on SNAP went down under Clinton and started to go up when GWB took office–and it *never* stopped going up until recently.

      And don’t pull the crap it is Obama’s fault. GWB’s economic policy years ran from Jan 2002 through Dec 2009. In Dec 2009, the BLS figures showed the US economy was missing 17+million jobs for available workers. Employment in normal economy would have been about 147-million workers. The actual figure was $129+million. That is *not* unemployment or an unemployment rate. That is an absolute number of unemployed workers *over and above* normal unemployment. Why? The number of people *employed in the US economy* does not, by definition, include anyone who is not working.

      It is on the govt web site and is Table B-1. Anyone can look up the figures.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 11/06/2015 - 09:49 am.


        There are more folks on welfare now than ever, 45M. We have thrown over 20 TRILLION at the war on poverty with HUD being the housing prong to help. In 1965 it all sounded good and I bought into the idea that a Federal program combined with State programs would help the less fortunate. It has not worked and unlike many I won’t celebrate the fact that 45M are on some form of welfare. I believe we should celebrate how many folks are getting off welfare not how many are on welfare. I have always believed in the dignity of good hard work and the pay check you receive for your work is good for your soul, mind and overall wellbeing.
        One good thing about getting old is you can see over time, in this case 50 years, if policies are working or not. The war on poverty has not worked, if you disagree show me the facts it has. If the liberals truly cared (not lip service and spending other folks tax dollars) they would be disgusted by the fact that all that money got spent and there are so few results to show for it!!

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 11/11/2015 - 06:38 pm.

          One of Reagan’s many silly remarks was

          “We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.”

          Nope, our government surrendered and went from emphasizing programs that helped people move up and fight unjust impediments to moving up (CETA, Legal Aid, Job Corps) to programs that emphasize subsistence-level maintenance. There was a PBS documentary called The War On Poverty, which is now unavailable, but which I distinctly remember as saying that powerful people were fine with the War on Poverty as long as it seemed like charity, but when it began, say, telling farmers in Appalachia that the coal companies were required to compensate them for ruining their land or telling slum tenants that their landlords were legally required to provide heat, electric power, and city water, the various powerful interests began complaining to their pet Congressmen, and gradually, most of the programs were abolished or greatly reduced.

          What we have now–and have had for the past thirty years– is not The War On Poverty but Subsistence Maintenance for People Working for Stingy Employers: food stamps, subsidized housing, Medicaid. All of these have the purpose of keeping the low-wage workforce alive to work another day.

          And if you give me the standard right-wing line of “They should just go to college and qualify for better jobs,” I’ll come right back and say “with what money?” and “with what time if they’re working with unpredictable schedules?”

          Oh, wait, right-wingers don’t even want mandated predictable schedules, because low-income workers are just cogs in the machine, not human beings. It’s as if retail and food service employers have turned stupid and can no longer write schedules in advance, although they seemed to manage it in the 1980s when I spent time working for a major national retailer.

          As a nation, we are charitable on an individual basis but not very good at economic justice. When people who work hard (ever seen how hotel maids or nursing home attendants work? Wanna trade places with them?) cannot afford adequate housing and have to patronize food shelves at the end of the month, we have a justice problem.

          We have too many affluent moneygrubbers who go into Mr. Burns mode whenever anyone suggests that maybe the 1% could pay more taxes and forego that second vacation home and too many armchair warriors who advocate writing checks in the literal trillions for the Pentagon and its crony contractors but scream “We’re going broke!” whenever it is suggested that maybe our social welfare system is one of the stingiest in the Western world and that maybe our infrastructure is antiquated compared to the rest of the world.

          This is not the country I grew up in. The country I grew up in was ashamed of having poverty in its midst and wanted to do something about it. The country that I grew up in was proud of having the world’s highest average standard of living and best infrastructure. The country I live in now has a segment of the population that seems to respond to the plight of the poor with “You’re all lazy bums” and that seems to be opposed to any infrastructure that doesn’t benefit themselves directly.

    • Submitted by Nicky Noel on 11/06/2015 - 09:02 am.

      There’s a pretty simple solution

      We need to raise the minimum wage, expand union representation, and provide sick leave. It is the only direct way to improve living conditions for every low-wage worker in the country, thereby reducing the need for government programs. Most other programs treat the symptoms of poverty rather than its root cause — an upside-down economic structure that funnels money to the richest.

      I don’t see the expansion of social services as a representation for how lazy/uneducated/whatever people are — it’s a subsidy we give to employers like Walmart, McDonald’s, etc. so they can underpay their workers and reap the profits.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 11/06/2015 - 02:35 pm.

        Raise the minimum to what? How will unionizing folks help create jobs, make housing affordable and help poverty? How will sick pay help with the war on poverty and HUD. If you raise the minimum wage to 15$ an hour and you work a normal work week you will make around $30,000 a year. Living in most major cities $30,000 a year will not afford you a house. What should the difference in pay between a skilled trade worker (class A welder, electrician, ect…) and a Walmart greeter or hamburger flipper at McDonalds or is there no difference in skilled labor vs non skilled labor? How many Walmart workers will lose their jobs if you raise the minimum to 15$ an hour?

        HUD, welfare, improved schools, improved job training and many other programs were put in place starting in 1965, with the promise to eliminate poverty in the USA, did it work? Should we continue the “war on poverty”? Should we change or eliminate all, some or none of the program’s promised to end poverty? 20 TRILLION dollars and 50 yrs later these are the questions we need to ask ourself not whether a HUD project in Edina vs N. Mpls is the answer.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/06/2015 - 06:43 pm.

          Strange thinking?

          Unionizing is what got America to a 40 Hr work week, also got us insurance, OSHA etc., paid vacations etc. Those things did not arise form the good will of the capitalistic system, and transferred to the non-union workers, at no personal cost to them. However if the belief is that its all BS then the conversation ends here. $30K a year from a single income is better than $20K a year from a single income, but thanks for making the point that it is difficult to impossible to survive and get ahead on $30K a year, which reinforces the point that W/O social services a lot of folks would be living in the streets. Of course unless that’s the way we should look at/treat our less fortunate citizens. Research suggests the $22T is a highly suspect number, But no matter, We have spent ~ $14-15 Trillion on defense since 1962, it doesn’t appear to have stopped global threats. So should we keep investing in this failed program?

          • Submitted by joe smith on 11/06/2015 - 08:51 pm.

            At its highest point Union membership was 33% of the workforce. How did those other 2/3’s make it? My question to a poster was what do think burger flippers should make? I pointed out that the 15$ an hour,holy grail of the liberals, will not help in buying a house in major cities. My final point was the War on poverty is a joke, at least 22T has been spent no disputing that, show me where we have improved the lower class. HUD is a prong of that and should be looked at for its results, not intentions or money spent. We cannot predict when an enemy to the USA will attack us or when we will have to get involved in world affairs, that being said, we spend too much on the military. Our citizens are not an unknown, we know where they live, how they live and the War on Poverty has failed them. Totally 2 different animals, the military and the poor. Nice try at linking them though.

            • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/07/2015 - 11:26 am.

              Silver bullets:

              are for the Lone Ranger and killing werewolves, don’t rightly recall indicating that we can use them for social injustice, specifically to the point of minimum wage, housing disparities, concentration of poverty, there will always be the question. where does my responsibility end and yours begin.
              The discussion is not about Union membership, not dodging the question, its called the halo effect, i.e. once some folks saw what what going on they had to adapt or lose their work force,
              This discussion is about housing and opportunity equality. Your choice for $15/hr holy grail, then apparently argue that its not enough, not sure where the liberal issues comes from, seems the conservatives deem that $100’s of millions a year for the well to do is still not enough, fair argument?
              Hud and results? OK, in general we haven’t had a major internal upheaval since the 60’s, and the standard of living for the average American has grown, but appears to be reversing, complete different discussion. The point is there are external forces/conflicts that threaten our “domestic tranquility” and internal forces that threaten our “domestic tranquility” in order to survive we must address both.

              We 100% disagree that external threats are not associated with internal threats: The framers knew it clearly and exposed it point blank in the preamble. Back to the point: We can rot from within as well as be destroyed from without. Proof? Syria, Libya, Egypt,Russia in the 90’s collapsed under its own weight, Japan has been struggling with their internal systems since 1989, Thailand is in a near revolution, Afghanistan, problems in Greece, Spain, the real estate financial melt down of 2008-2009, the poor in 08-09 were billionaire banks & bankers. There is “zero” belief that the melt down would have fixed itself. This article tries to address some of the threats from within, many we have only been able to hold down with astronomical incarceration rates, and police state tactics, Baltimore, New York, Ferguson, etc. The facts and history are on the table, can we do better, of course, that is what the article lays out, is there a silver bullet, no, also what the article lays out. The better solution proposed from your perspective appears to be, criticize and critique others, trash what ever exists today and replace it with nothing, and some how everything will magically work itself out.
              Everything is linked one way or the other Bucky Fuller: its called “space ship earth” we live in a closed environment circling the sun, freak economics, the laws of unintended consequences.

  7. Submitted by Rob Sebo Lubke on 11/05/2015 - 06:41 pm.

    the suburbs are where many jobs are now…

    In particular for a lot of folks with no post secondary education there are jobs to be had in the burbs…we need to spread out our affordable housing opportunities for that, as well as access to different education and socialization options for the kids…don’t forget that white kids in Edina benefit from having peers of color as much as kids of color benefit from the better school.

    But I also think it is inevitable that our core city neighborhoods will continue to gentrify…if we build affordable housing in the near in neighborhoods as more people like me move in it is less likely to completely displace long time residents.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 11/06/2015 - 09:28 pm.

      If poor people are to be dispersed to the suburbs, then

      we need to modify our public transit system, not just light rail or express buses for morning and evening commuters but frequent local bus service and centralized, walkable or transit-friendly commercial areas. This would not impact the suburbanite’s desire to have a two-acre lot a mile off the main highway, but it would make life more convenient for everyone.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 11/07/2015 - 12:56 am.

      Some data would be nice

      As would an abandonment of the term “affordable housing”. Maybe the suburbs are where the jobs are, there are more Menards stores that need cart corral people and more retail outlets, but are these the jobs that support families? And “affordable”, just say it, subsidized by the government. After years off foreclosures and depressed housing values, homes were never more affordable. Instead of “affordable housing” maybe what we need are “good jobs”, and not these inflated “minimum wage ” unicorns that pay people for existing, but instead pay for having marketable skills,

  8. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/05/2015 - 08:29 pm.

    “insure domestic Tranquility,”

    The framers had it right, and the moral of the story is suppression, inequality, concentration of poverty etc. will sooner or later lead to social upheaval.

  9. Submitted by Gary L. Cunningham on 11/06/2015 - 08:19 am.

    Show me the data!

    Can anyone produce an analysis or a valid study which shows segregating poor people of color creates good outcomes for families, children or adults at anytime or anywhere in our country’s history? We want to use hard nosed data to address every other policy issues, but for not for this issue.

    Our collective policies of reinforcing segregated housing patterns have not only created the largest racial disparities for people of color in the country, but will utlimately undermine our competitiveness and quality of life for all people of the region.

    The data is irrefutable, people concentrated or isolated in poor communities experience a number of deleterious, mutually reinforcing, and cumulative impacts on their life outcomes. Research shows that children and adults living in highly concentrated poverty and segregated places are more likely to have lower educational attainment, and have a higher probability of being involved in – or being a victim of – crime, living in substandard housing, and not obtaining the social and human capital necessary to pursue the American Dream.

    The systemic segregated housing patterns we find in the Twin Cities today were fostered by Federal Housing Administration (FHA) policies, in collusion with local planning decisions, reinforced by policies of the Public Housing Authority’s.

    According to the Kirwan Institute: “The federal government accelerated (White) migration to the suburbs by subsidizing home mortgages through the national housing act of 1934, but through the 1950s, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) underwriting manuals expressly warned that blacks had “adverse influences” on property values. The agencies instructed … personnel not to insure mortgages on homes unless they were in “racially homogeneous” White neighborhoods. Under these guidelines, the FHA actually refused to lend money to – or underwrite loans for – Whites, if they moved to areas where people of color live.”

    We can do better!

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/06/2015 - 09:00 am.


      We can definitely do better. While previous laws and policies outright discriminated based on race, current laws and policies do so more subtly. They’re wrong in so many ways.

      For what it’s worth, I do believe that current policies are much more inclusive than in the past. Though, those policies still disadvantage those who have already been disadvantaged by history, in my opinion, they are not necessarily racist, other than as a matter of reinforcement of economic results of historical policy. I live in a very upper middle class neighborhood. It is the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood I have ever lived in. Not that my experience has necessarily set a high bar. But I would guess that most of the entire development is no more than 60% white. The rest of the population is a sampling of cultures and races from around the world, with many of the children in the neighborhood being first generation American. The next highest population is probably Eastern Asian, and the next is Middle Eastern/Northern African, though it’s hard to say for sure. If the policies inherently discriminated by race, this neighborhood would look very different. I will note, though, that there are no obvious rentals in the entire development (some houses might be rented, though). There are also only a few rental housing units within easy walking distance. The neighborhood is very economically separate from those that typically rent housing.

  10. Submitted by Mark Brigham on 11/06/2015 - 08:50 am.


    The headline for this article reminds me of the GW Bush quote “Will the highways of the Internet become more few?” Nice!

  11. Submitted by Jim Gabler on 11/06/2015 - 09:28 am.

    Solution to both the location and # of affordable rental units.

    Thanks to Rep. Ellison for holding this conference. Those of us who’ve been in this industry for a long time much appreciate his diligence and commitment to the affordable housing issue.

    We can continue to discuss affordable housing location and production, as we have for years, however the following issues have to be addressed before any significant changes are really possible – and that task won’t be easy but is attainable over time:

    1. Funding levels have to be increased through fundamental changes in the current national housing subsidy situation. Right now most housing subsidies are indirect (through tax code devices), go to homeownership, and go to those that don’t need them. Even the (2nd) President Bush’s Millennial Housing Commission of the early 2000’s showed that.

    2. We need to get back to better rental subsidy programs that truly allow for better locational and delivery choices, deeper subsidies, are simpler and can be assured for an extended period, say a minimum of 20 years. We need to get back to the old Project-Based Section 8 Program and, especially in the cases of larger projects, limit it to 20% of the units. Portable Section 8 Vouchers have not worked and have not provided the choice that was envisioned. Unfortunately, the Project-Based program acquired a bad name during the HUD scandal in the Reagan reign under HUD Sec. Samuel Pierce and Ass’t. Sec. Thomas Demery when they were handing out contracts to campaign donors, however that issue can be fixed. As has been noted even by former Rep. Myron Orfield in his studies, the dispersal of affordable units in the Twin Cities was best during the later 70’s when we had this program and could piggyback it with others.

    3. We need to have the Federal Government recommit to those Public Housing Agencies (St. Paul and Minneapolis have maybe the two best in the Country) that do what they’re supposed to do and do it well.

    At the current time we have neither the amount of funds or the delivery programs to produce what we’d all like to see with affordable rental housing – and that hasn’t changed in a long time. And it’s really pretty shameful.

  12. Submitted by Barry LeBlanc on 11/06/2015 - 10:02 am.

    I also shake my head!

    Paul Williams’ annoyed question: “Why is it always my folks who gotta get shipped out?” I cut and pasted this line…I am an American Indian Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma. If you look at the non casino trust land Reservations you would see why concentrating poverty creates segregation. What this Gent speaks of is a promoting racial tensions. What needs to be done is the chance for a economically challenged family the opportunity to raise their children in a safe environment. Edina is a city that has fought against building Section 42 housing. Mr Paul Williams. Please advocate for a more disperse housing to the people your preaching too… Don’t Preach of building the same failed segmented housing policy of the 60’s as they never worked. Preach we need to bring YOUR folk to EDINA and to break the cycle of economic chains…

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