New Minneapolis City Council committee sets sights on affordable housing

The first meeting of the Housing Policy and Development committee will be held on Jan. 31.

Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon poses for a portrait in his office at Minneapolis City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Gordon will head a new committee focusing on affordable housing.

Max Ostenso, Daily File Photo

Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon poses for a portrait in his office at Minneapolis City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Gordon will head a new committee focusing on affordable housing.

Michael Achterling

A new Minneapolis City Council committee will focus on boosting the city’s affordable housing stock.

The formation of a new Housing Policy and Development committee was announced last week with the approval of other standing committees and new council leadership. The HPD committee will have primary oversight on current and future affordable housing policies.

“I think there is a real need for public housing to especially serve the lowest income folks and the people without any income in the city,” said Ward 2 City Council member Cam Gordon, who chairs the new committee. 

The HPD committee is a refocusing of the City’s previous Community Development and Regulatory Services committee.

Gordon said he hopes to form a housing advisory group involving various community stakeholders to report to the HPD committee. 

“As we develop policy changes, we’ll have a group of appointed community representatives that can speak out on [the issues],” he said. 

Gordon said he wants to seek input from the University of Minnesota community due to the large number of students living off-campus. He said the committee may hold listening sessions in the future to gather feedback. 

Cody Olson, executive director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said affordable housing is a main concern among students.

“Our students and our communities right now are paying too much money just for rent, and helping that burden is something that would truly have an impact on a lot of students in the University area,” Olson said. 

Each Minneapolis neighborhood is unique, he said, adding that he recommends the committee not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to affordable housing policy.

“Each community would have a different definition of what affordable housing means, and each community has a different definition of their affordable housing needs,” Olson said.

The committee will work with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, recommending its board members and voting on the authority’s executive director, according to Gordon.

The HPD community will also be responsible for residential real estate development, redevelopment and homelessness prevention.

“I think [the committee] is really going to support all residents of Minneapolis,” said newly-elected Ward 5 City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, vice-chair of the HPD committee.

Enforcement of current housing ordinances and laws is another aspect the committee should look at, Ellison said.

“If we can’t figure out how to make sure that [the ordinances and laws] are followed, then they basically count for nothing,” he said.

Stricter enforcement of laws will help the City crack down on predatory landlords, Ellison said, as many residents don’t know how to combat unfair practices.

“I think [affordable housing] is going to be something that this council really has to take leadership on,” he said.