Politics / StudentNation / October 24, 2023

This City Council Election Will Decide the Future of Housing in Minneapolis

With every city council seat up for grabs in 2023, progressives hope for a veto-proof majority to pass meaningful affordable housing policies.

Theia Chatelle
Minneapolis Affordable Housing

A high-rise apartment building under construction in Minneapolis, Minn.

(Ben Brewer / Getty)

“No place in the US has put inflation in the rearview mirror quite as fast as Minneapolis,” proclaims a Bloomberg article from August, praising the Minneapolis metropolis as the “First American City to Tame Inflation.” What’s responsible for Minneapolis’s unique accomplishment? Affordable housing. “The Minneapolis area has seen an increase in rental units, thanks to a regional effort that included new zoning rules.”

But with every city council seat up for grabs in 2023, the results of the election could undermine the anchor of Minneapolis’s revival — a progressive housing policy.

The key issue is a slate of proposals that have thus far been opposed by Mayor Jacob Frey, including a 3 percent rent control policy and changes to zoning restrictions that would promote multi-use urban areas. In 2021, Minneapolis voters approved a proposal to change Minneapolis to a “strong mayor” city, enshrining the position as the city’s chief executive and establishing the city council as the city’s legislative body. Since then, the embattled Frey has used his expanded power to block changes proposed by the progressive wing of the city council to tackle Minneapolis’s affordable housing crisis.

Minneapolis voters recently approved a ballot initiative that opened the doors to a formal rent control policy in the city, but thanks to Frey’s vocal opposition—and the lack of organization among the progressive wing of the council—last year’s push to pass the measure failed, as the vote was held on Eid al-Adha while three Muslim members were absent.

City Council President Andrea Jenkins, the first openly Black transgender woman to be elected to office in the United States, is facing off against left-wing challenger Soren Stevenson, who lost an eye at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 and was subsequently awarded more than $2 million in a settlement from the city. Stevenson, a vocal proponent of rent control and rezoning policies, has been endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

Despite large gains projected for the progressive flank of the councils, it remains unclear whether they will be able to form a veto-proof majority that could overcome Mayor Frey’s steadfast opposition to housing reform. And while Minneapolis has been successful in adding onto its stock of affordable housing, the city council faces mounting pressure for its failure to confront the city’s homelessness crisis after multiple high-profile evictions of homeless encampments last year.

While many have lauded Minneapolis for the steps it has taken to make housing affordable, the city still has a long way to go. The direction it decides to take after the November 7 elections could well have national implications, influencing the direction of city-level housing policy coast to coast.

Read the rest of StudentNation’s dispatches on the 2023 election here.

Theia Chatelle

Theia Chatelle is a student at Yale University and a former Puffin StudentNation writing fellow. Her writing has appeared in Haaretz, Teen Vogue, and others.

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