Jun 28, 2019

The Hometown Tour: Minneapolis

Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz in conversation with Axios' Nick Johnston.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in conversation with Axios' Editor-in-Chief, Nick Johnston. Photo: Lucas Botz for Axios

The big picture: Wednesday morning, Axios' Editor-in-Chief Nick Johnston hosted a 4-part conversation on housing in Minnesota.

The conversation explored the implementation of the Minneapolis 2040 plan and its multifaceted approach to development, racial inequity in home ownership, and urban-rural divides in access to affordable housing.

Robyn Bipes-Timm, Chief Operations Officer, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity
Chief Operations Officer of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Robyn Bipes-Timm.
Robyn Bipes-Timm, COO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity unpacks the historical inequity in city housing. Photo: Lucas Botz for Axios

The Chief Operations Officer of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Robyn Bipes-Timm discussed the history of racial inequity in housing policy and the need to make significant progress in development.

On Minnesota's belief in housing being the bedrock of the community: "When you don't get housing right, you don't get anything right. Housing and the housing market is key to a strong economy...You don't get people having access to their jobs. You don't get employers who can attract the right employees."

On racial inequity in housing:

  • "Minnesota is known to be an excellent place for innovation and jobs and great quality of life. Yet we have this abysmal disparity gap in homeownership between households of color and white households."
  • "It's not just something that happened. It's been the result of really deliberate housing policies over the last 50-60 years that limited where people could live, limited what lenders would lend to people of color...It has been created with such deliberateness."
  • "We have to address the housing problem with as much energy as we were complacent in creating housing disparities."
Tim Walz, Governor of Minnesota

Governor of Minnesota Tim Walz emphasized the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors to address the challenges presented by the housing crisis. He also underscored the need to approach housing as a cross-policy issue, one that impacts education, economic development, and veterans affairs.

  • On public-private partnerships: "You do have to let go of...this overly simplistic idea that it's just the government or the private sector's [responsibility to develop housing], depending on your ideology. We all know this housing issue is about leveraging the resources that we have. It's about viewing housing across as a spectrum"
  • On how education and housing fit together: "It doesn't make any sense to pour more money into education when [educational support isn't there.] Say I'm a high school geography teacher, and kids have to come to school after sleeping in a car. The students aren't going to be able to care about what happened in geography class. These issues [of housing and education] are not intractable."
Greg Russ, Executive Director, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority
Executive Director, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Greg Russ in conversation with Nick Johnston.
Greg Russ, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority speaks about collaboration between the government and the private sector. Photo: Lucas Botz for Axios

Executive Director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, Greg Russ discussed the various challenges faced by the agency, and stressed the importance of maintaining and improving existing structures in addition to new construction.

On lacking federal investment: "The amount of money that is being put into the capital side of public housing is not sufficient. And the question becomes then: how do you manage to use the resources you have...to attract private capital?"

On the priorities of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority: "Our first order of business is to make sure everyone has a unit, and that it's a unit that is going to last. And then that [residents] are going to have an opportunity to continue to stay there...Right behind it is the opportunity to build more."

Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis
Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey on the Axios stage.
Mayor Jacob Frey discusses the Minneapolis 2040 plan on the Axios stage. Photo: Lucas Botz for Axios

Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey unpacked the city's goals for increasing affordable housing, and highlighted the city's history of segregation in its zoning policies. Emphasizing the wide-ranging positive impact of the new policies, he expressed hope that other cities across the country would follow suit.

Why people are not starting off at the same place in terms of housing options: "A big reason is that people don't have stable housing options to begin with. People are segregated off and we have these restrictive covenants that run with the land. We've got intentional segregation through our city. "

On the two key components of affordable housing:

  • "The first is subsidy, bridging that gap between whatever constitutes the market rate and the affordable rates... housing so that people who are experiencing homelessness have the next rung on the ladder to pull themselves out."
  • "The second part is making sure that we have adequate supply to accommodate the demand and a diversity of housing options in every neighborhood."

Thank you Wells Fargo for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper