A recent report by the Star Tribune posited that by the end of next year, builders will have completed 13,000 units — mainly market rate and luxury apartments — in addition to the 24,000 apartments built since 2010 in the Twin Cities. This massive uptick in building is expected to end the supposed era of ultra-low vacancies and steadily rising rents in the area. The article posited that the arrival of new apartments is a testament to the economic health of the region because we have a growing population and lower-than-national-average unemployment rate.
While it certainly may be true that the increase in available apartments could stabilize the rent pricing due to cost, several issues with the construction of these apartments would undercut this utopic vision of unfettered growth. Though Minneapolis is likely to see this dramatic rise in units, the fact that many of these units are luxury and market-price is a testament to the lack of affordability of the area and a commitment to disregard the need for more affordable housing.
During the recent mayoral election process, affordable housing was a central theme. Mayoral candidates rallied behind lowering rent costs through a variety of means. They relentlessly advocated that ridiculously high rent pricing was stripping many medium to low-income households of their economic freedom. An increase in the same type of housing across Minneapolis doesn’t show economic growth — it shows a regressive culture that simply doesn’t change by electing new local government representatives. It shows the city’s lack of commitment to improving the quality of life for the many people looking for affordable places to live in the Twin Cities.
The city should start by imposing restrictions on unfettered development, establishing stronger rules to protect historical areas and empowering local communities to debate purchasing rights of apartments. This has worked in the past — for instance, in October of 2017, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission denied a 25-story apartment that was expected to be much of the same luxury and market-rate apartments.
It’s important that the City of Minneapolis take stronger action to shift the emphasis from market-rate and luxury housing. It is this increase in building that brought our city to a housing crisis. Doing the same thing at a much more vigorous scale and rate will not bring different results — it will further weaken any progress made to improve the availability of affordable housing.