Mayoral candidates weigh in on student and housing issues before next week’s election

The Nov. 7 mayoral election is now less than a week away.

From left to right: Betsy Hodges, Jacob Frey, Raymond Dehn, Tom Hoch and Nekima Levy-Pounds

Courtney Deutz

From left to right: Betsy Hodges, Jacob Frey, Raymond Dehn, Tom Hoch and Nekima Levy-Pounds

Madeline Deninger

Mayor Betsy Hodges

Mayor Betsy Hodges said she wants students to have access to affordable housing close to campus. According to Hodges, the availability of mass transit will accomplish this. 

“People want to have easy access to campus, so that’s one of the reasons I’ve invested very heavily in our transit system and we need to keep doing that, even though at the federal and state level we have a lot of forces against us,” Hodges said in a mayoral forum at the University. “There’s a whole world along those rail lines where there can be housing that is more affordable with easy access to campus.” 

Hodges also wants to increase affordable housing citywide. To do this, Hodges said the city needs to increase the number of available units and make sure they stay affordable. 

“We have a very tight rental market. That means people [who] have less income for housing have [a] harder time finding it, so we’re building more,” she said.

State Rep. Raymond Dehn

State Rep. Raymond Dehn said students have the potential to play a big part in Tuesday’s municipal election.

He stresses issues important to students, like affordable housing near campus. Dehn said he’s an advocate for rent stabilization – limiting the percentage a landlord can increase rent over time.

“If the public isn’t engaged in trying to fix those issues, it’s not going to end anything soon, and that’s going to create more hardship for students who are on the margins and are just barely able to afford their education,” he said.

While Dehn said the city doesn’t have much influence on tuition, he hopes officials will advocate for college affordability. Dehn said he has first-hand experience with the issue, as he’s still repaying his student loans.

“The mayor should continue to be a strong advocate, like at the Board of Regents when they set tuition,” he said.

Ward 3 City Council Member Jacob Frey

Ward 3 Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey said his experience leading the ward will help him address the issue of affordable housing near campus. Frey said he wants to allot funding specifically for affordable housing generated from revenues from increases in property value.

“We can be a socioeconomically diverse community, and students can get through college without heaps of debt from ridiculously high rents,” he said.

Frey said another concern among students to address is safety. Frey wants to increase collaboration between the University of Minnesota Police Department and the Minneapolis Police Department to make campus safer.

He said he also would prioritize sexual assault prevention and mental health care.

“We need to increase collaboration, making sure not just that sexual assault is prevented, but that care is given to the victims, and that we deal with instances in an empathetic and gentle way,” he said.

Tom Hoch

In order to increase affordable housing, Tom Hoch supports an inclusionary zoning policy.

According to Hoch’s official website, such a policy would require new developments of a certain size to contain a share of affordable units. 

Developments that meet that requirement would be incentivized with eased parking requirements or limited tax abatements. 

Hoch also wants to emphasize project-based housing assistance. This ties the assistance to the unit as opposed to traditional housing vouchers, which allows renters to find housing in an open market. 

“Tying assistance to a unit means we can have greater influence to ensure properties stay affordable. This also gives the city more options in developing affordable housing in every neighborhood,” Hoch’s campaign website reads. 

Nekima Levy-Pounds

Nekima Levy-Pounds said she wants to use her experience as an activist, civil rights lawyer and former president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter to advocate for equality across the city, including access to affordable housing.

Levy-Pounds said she wants to change zoning codes and increase density to create economically diverse housing.

“The affordable housing issues students are dealing with really mirror the issues the entire city faces,” she said. 

She said she wants more students to be active in government, and added she thinks her social justice background will help her mobilize them.

“We have to make sure that we are responsive to those living in the margins and those without a voice in the political process, and that includes students as well,” she said.

Police accountability is another issue Levy-Pounds stressed. In order to affect change in the police and in the city as a whole, Levy-Pounds said transparency is critical.