Schneider: What Frey can do for the student housing crisis

The mayor-elect should prioritize student housing, as more students struggle to get by.

Ellen Schneider

As a student who has worked full time, I can attest to the astronomical costs that are weighing on students. I’ve worked 40-hour weeks while juggling 18 credits, and it has not begun to cover the costs I’ve incurred. 

A weak economy combined with extreme shortages of affordable housing and the incredible costs of college attendance, not to mention the insufficiency of financial aid, has created an impossible situation. College students who struggle to find affordable housing are more likely to leave without a degree, according to Scholars Strategy Network. Economic downturns have intensified the need for financial support, meanwhile this necessity has largely gone unacknowledged. 

According to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, there are nearly 58,000 college students nationwide who are homeless. The Minneapolis Community & Technological College estimates that 10 percent of its students are homeless. 

In 2014, CIRE Magazine reported that the University had the ability to house roughly 13 percent of the student body. Approximately 20 percent of students were able to commute, leaving a majority to fend for themselves in the housing market. 

Jacob Frey was announced as the next mayor of Minneapolis on Nov. 8 and ran on a claim that the city is amidst a housing crisis. His housing plan includes several components aimed at increasing availability of affordable housing. 

Frey’s proposal includes an increase in funding. The mayor-elect calls for the setting aside of a percentage of tax revenue for properties valued at $300,000 or more. He also proposes the creation of more housing, for those at 30 percent of the area median income. Frey wants an increased timeframe for which housing is required to remain affordable. 

Although the proposed efforts highlight some issues that Minneapolis is facing, it overlooks a crucial segment of the population: students. 

Outgoing Mayor Betsy Hodges opted for a more conservative, less costly approach which mirrored the current housing plan. Hodges emphasized preservation of current units, instead of building new ones, while Raymond Dehn highlighted more of the issues that college students are facing. Because half of the Minneapolis population are renters, Dehn recognized that it should be a city priority to control costs. He intended to set maximum rates for annual increases, and means to penalize exploitative landlords. 

As giant leasing corporations continue to engulf huge parts of Dinkytown and jack-up prices, many students are left floundering. If Frey chooses to combat the economic hardships students are facing, his housing plan should incorporate some components of Dehn’s. Dehn outlined protections for renters that are essential to students leasing apartments. 

This issue was personified by the Prime Place debacle that was reported by the Minnesota Daily on Monday. Students are being forced to live in an unsafe and unfinished environment because of corrupt landlords and poor regulatory compliance. 

As reported by the Daily in October, MSA will be releasing a list of abusive landlords to University students in November. This development is a small step towards enabling students to make educated and fair housing decisions. 

There are measures taken in places with high concentrations of college students that Frey should implement in Minneapolis, because this issue requires a response specific to students. 

Tacoma Community College in Washington created a Housing Assistance Program which provides rental assistance to students who are or may become homeless. A second approach to the crisis is providing assistance, similar to what Single Stop USA has done in New York. Single Stop is a nonprofit that aims to connect people with resources to find affordable housing, and pursue their educations. Implementing these types of programs, resources and regulations in Minneapolis would help to alleviate some of the economic and emotional stress.