As of summer 2013, Minneapolis is currently enjoying a resurgence in residential growth and increased population downtown. A boom in high end multifamily construction is leading to one new luxury apartment building after another. Planners are predicting continued population growth downtown in coming years. Meanwhile, a major new office and residential development in the east downtown area near the new Vikings stadium is likely to create ripple effects across what has been the quieter part of downtown neighborhoods.
All this good news for the City and for its more affluent residents attracted to downtown living is not good news, however, for those lower income residents who still call downtown home. These development pressures are a direct threat to the remaining supply of affordable rental units. This concern led Minneapolis City officials to contact HPP for help. With the financial support of the Family Housing Fund, HPP compiled as complete an inventory as is possible of the remaining affordable housing supply. What HPP found was that there remain some 3800 subsidized rental units downtown, with another 540 plus unsubsidized but affordable units as well. These units predominate in the Elliot Park neighborhood, and to a lesser degree in the Loring Park neighborhood.
What can the City do to protect this supply? HPP undertook extensive research from around the country to identify a menu of policy options for the City to consider. Among the policy options to preserve or replace: a replacement housing requirement, a right of first refusal requirement, inclusionary zoning, and a downtown tax increment district for affordable housing. An analysis of the policy options is here. All of these options have practical, political and in some cases potential legal challenges ahead, but if the City seriously wants to avoid downtown eventually becoming an exclusive haven for the affluent only, some action of this kind will be needed. This fall’s elections will result in major change in City political leadership at both the mayoral and council levels. The question of the City’s role in who gets to live downtown will be one of the issues facing this new leadership.