Editorial: Affordable housing policy should emphasize livability

Daily Editorial Board

Recently, a private inspection of the new Prime Place Apartments building revealed serious fire safety violations that placed more than 100 University of Minnesota students in jeopardy. Additionally, the building appears to be poorly built on multiple accounts. Given that the City of Minneapolis granted a temporary certificate of occupancy, this shows clear and obvious oversight on behalf of the local government. The consequences of such negligence has put, and continues to put, students and the general population in danger. This is unacceptable under any circumstances: Prime Place Apartments and the City of Minneapolis need to be held accountable for this mistake. This should be handled without hesitation, for the sake of tenants, past, present and future.

This has not been the first offense for Prime Place Apartments. The same sort of activity occurred in several other locations, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This does not mean that Prime Place should not be able to build near campus in Prospect Park, however, why should the company gain the benefit of the doubt from the City of Minneapolis? Clearly, the city issued the order in good faith rather than by inspection, hence the fire-safety violations later found upon private investigation. Incompetence on every account is explicit. The City of Minneapolis should be looking for more trustworthy contractors and companies to build housing. Regardless of the company standing, there needs to be more supervision to make sure tenants are not being put in any risk. There is enough concern among the student body to find housing in the first place; it cannot fall on the shoulders of the prospective tenant to worry about their safety. This responsibility should fall squarely on the shoulders of the City of Minneapolis and the property owners.

Affordable housing has been a major concern within the entire city, especially within the communities surrounding the University of Minnesota. With such a large influx of students looking for housing around campus, finding a place to live that is affordable may be difficult. We commend individuals, city officials and organizations who recognize and attempt to combat this issue in the neighborhoods surrounding the University. That being said, every effort to deliver affordable housing will be all for naught if the housing is not livable. 

There are several developmental initiatives and plans for areas surrounding the University of Minnesota campus. We support any initiative that aims at developing an area, however, we believe every plan should aim to benefit renters as well as the property owners. We as a community and the city government must be wary and protect against unfit and predatory developers, in order to protect renters and the reputation of good developers and property managers alike. This must be done on every level, especially in city or local government organizations. Clearly, there has been some incompetence handling the Prime Place Apartments failures and there needs to be change. Affordable housing needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, the fight for adequate housing does not stop with the approval for construction.