Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey laid out his affordable housing plan and listened to community input at a forum Thursday night.
The event, held at the University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center, allowed community members to hear from the mayor and other city leaders and discuss issues of affordable housing in Minneapolis.
“We are confronting what is literally the number one priority for my administration. I believe it is a crisis right now in the city of Minneapolis, and that issue is affordable housing,” Frey said during the forum.
Frey outlined some of his key strategies to combat the issue: providing “deeply affordable housing” at 30 percent of the area median income, improving energy costs and preserving existing affordable housing in the city.
Community members and city leaders then split into smaller groups to discuss specific affordable housing issues and develop ideas for potential solutions.
Ward 2 Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon, who chairs the City’s Housing Policy and Development Committee, attended the forum.
“I hope [people] see the city is serious and wants to do something [about] affordable housing,” Gordon said.
Gordon mentioned his plan to roll out a community advisory committee on housing, which Minneapolis residents could apply to serve on and inform the council on housing issues.
Ward 5 Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, who vice chairs the committee, was also in attendance.
“I’m really excited that the mayor has invited us here because I think that this collaboration with the council, being in conversation with the council is really important,” he said during the forum. “It demonstrates that the mayor sets a vision. I think it’s a good vision, but it’s the council passing the laws. I think it’s important that this entire body be in conversation.”
Rep. Raymond Dehn, DFL-Minneapolis, who ran against Frey in the 2017 municipal election, said he came to the forum to listen to the concerns of the community. Dehn said affordable housing has long been talked about, and he hopes the council can implement effective policy.
“Ultimately it will come down to the policy changes that the council and the mayor make, and if the resources will follow,” Dehn said.
One of the ways Frey hopes to make housing affordable across Minneapolis, including in student neighborhoods, is to get rid of the city’s maximum occupancy limits. An ordinance that Frey authored while serving as city council member of Ward 3 would allow more than five unrelated residents to live in the same household.
The ordinance did not pass while Frey was on the council, but it was reintroduced by Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender and referred to the Zoning and Planning Committee on Thursday.
“I’m pleased that Council President Bender is moving forward to lift those,” Frey said. “That has the potential to add substantially to the affordable housing stock we have in our city.”
Frey said his affordable housing plan will include student housing. Along with lifting the occupancy limits, Frey said he wants to keep market prices in check and provide subsidized housing for students who need it.
“Students are encountering a similar crisis to that which people in other parts of the city are experiencing. They’re also getting sacked with a heap of tuition debt,” he said.