University housing forum tackles 2040 plan

Panelists discussed the future of City housing policy and the 2040 plan.

by Tiffany Bui

Students had a chance to question housing experts about one of the most controversial issues in Minneapolis’ overarching city plan at a Tuesday forum on campus. 

Housing policy was spotlighted at the event hosted by University of Minnesota undergraduates at Mondale Hall for a public policy class. Panelists included housing officials and advocates, who fielded queries about what the future of housing will look like in light of the approaching completion of the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. 

Joe Forest, a sophomore who helped host the event, said while he wasn’t knowledgeable about the 2040 plan, he has a personal connection to the housing crisis. 

“All I knew was more personal experiences,” Forest said in an interview. “Having, you know, friends and colleagues who haven’t had housing and had to live with other friends, with family and even homeless shelters.” 

Anne Mavity, executive director of the nonprofit Minnesota Housing Partnership, said issues like low vacancy rates and mounting rent burdens, especially in relation to communities of color, highlight the importance of updated housing policy. 

“What’s happening in our community right now is we’re producing a lot of housing, but there’s a basic market mismatch between what is being produced and who needs housing,” Mavity said. 

According to Mavity, the Minneapolis market needs 2,500 units of new housing built every year to keep pace with demand, but only 100 units are being created. The disparity creates a backlog of residents who need housing but can’t find or afford it. 

“That’s sort of the general reason, why we talk about this with such urgency in a crisis. Not only is this happening every year, it’s starting to accumulate into a real problem,” Mavity said. 

Andrea Brennan, director of City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development, said years of federal divestment in affordable housing helped spur these problems.

“That is a really, really hard resource to make up on the state and local level,” Brennan said.

Tara Beard, the Metropolitan Council’s housing policy analyst, said that while local governments can’t keep up with the lost capacity, there are still policy changes they can enact. 

Recent debates about local housing policy have arisen during the drafting of the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which the City will send to the Metropolitan Council for review by the end of December. 

Brennan said City staff have read thousands of comments since preparations for the plan began three years ago. The City Council considered over 100 amendments to the plan last week. 

“I think that the process we’ve gone through to establish the goals and priorities and strategies…is so much improved from our plan that is currently in place,” Brennan said.

The panelists encouraged students to get involved with housing policy however they can. 

“We all can be engaged more than we are,” Mavity said. “Right now we are in a moment where housing is on the radar of policymakers at the state level, at the city level … and we haven’t had that opportunity.”