NAACP leaders challenge city on housing project

by Megan Boldt

and Max Rust
The NAACP is going back to court today to block efforts made by the Minneapolis City Council to demolish the Glenwood and Lyndale housing projects.
NAACP leaders rejected a compromise settlement Monday. The agreement would have saved only 25 percent of the units proposed for demolition under the Hollman consent decree.
The decree resulted in 1995 from a lawsuit against local, regional and federal governments filed by the NAACP and the Legal Aid Society in 1992. The suit charged that the government centralized low-income people in housing projects in north Minneapolis.
A $117 million agreement was later reached in 1995 when Minneapolis City Council approved a plan to replace existing public housing with new units throughout the metro area.
Some of the units are to be constructed in the Seward and Como neighborhoods near the University. But the NAACP and housing activists argue that the city is lagging in replacing the housing.
Out of 424 housing units demolished, only 54 replacement units have been built, sending many families into shelters and giving others vouchers for rent.
The decree calls for 770 units to be demolished and replaced.
In June, protesters stopped wrecking crews from demolishing more units in the Glenwood and Lyndale housing projects north of Olson Memorial Highway. Since then, the city and the NAACP have been working on an agreement to continue the process of demolishing the housing projects and replacing the units.
Earlier this month both sides settled on a tentative agreement to continue demolishing the 220-unit Glenwood project. In the agreement, the city set aside $300,000 to refurbish 70 of the 86 units in the Lyndale project.
The parties were to affirm the settlement in federal court today, but NAACP officials announced Monday that they will not approve the settlement. They say the agreement will displace more public housing residents.
“The city must re-rent the vacant housing units at Glenwood and Lyndale,” said Curtis Herron, pastor of the Zion Baptist Church. “Leaving housing units stand empty in the midst of our housing crisis is a shame.”
Herron is the co-chair of the Northside Pastors, one of many community groups working to stop the destruction of public housing until replacement units are built.
The Northside Neighbors for Justice, another group opposed to the current demolition proposal, held a press conference Thursday morning to express their support for the NAACP.
City councilwoman Joan Campbell, who represents Ward 2 encompassing the University area, said there was a “strong indication” that the NAACP would approve the compromise, since they agreed to it Sept. 2.
“We were quite stunned when the NAACP rejected the settlement,” Campbell said.
Campbell and other city officials said the move would further hinder the Hollman rebuilding progress.
“We’d rather be spending money on housing than paying attorneys,” Campbell said.
Voices of opposition
NAACP officials have a different perspective.
“The idea that we’re standing in the way of progress is somewhat offensive to me and to the NAACP,” said Jason Brown, who represented the NAACP at Thursday’s press conference.
“I don’t think we make our city better by first increasing exponentially the number of homeless people with the promise that someday we will build houses to start putting them in. I don’t think that makes for great progress,” he said.
Some north Minneapolis residents are upset not only with how long the replacement housing is taking, but are mad the community is not taking part in the process.
Preliminary redevelopment plans for the area include a mixed-use project that would include multi-income level housing. The most recent plan calls for 25 percent public housing, the same amount for low-income people and the remaining is reserved for housing at the market rate.
Northside residents say they are disturbed by such a plan.
Robert Woods, a member of Northside Neighbors for Justice, said that city officials want to increase the property tax base in the area by removing lower- income wage earners.
“That’s their selling feature to home owners,” Woods said. “It’s dehumanizing.”
Steve Wash, another northside neighbors member, said he has a problem with a section of the decree that states that only 200 of the 770 units to be replaced can be in Minneapolis, leaving the rest to the suburbs.
“Mandating that so many of these units be placed outside of these peoples’ areas of comfort is not locational choice,” Wash said. “It’s forced deconcentration, which is gentrification by force, which is ethnic cleansing.”

Max Rust and Megan Boldt welcome comments at [email protected] and [email protected].