2017 Candidate Questionnaire: Betsy Hodges - Mayor

Betsy Hodges

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Question 1: Thoughts on market rate development
Question 2: Ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing
Quesiton 3: Encouraging housing diversity
Question 4: Restrictive/commercial zoning in neighborhood interiors
Question 5: Other thoughts related to housing or zoning

Question: How do you think the market rate housing development of the last several years has impacted Minneapolis?

I've said I want Minneapolis to grow to 500,000 plus residents. We need to add market-rate housing to get there, and we've done well on that front during the recovery from the market collapse in 2009. Expanding the total number of housing units is part of how we provide access to quality affordable units, both at market rates and through subsidies. I've long been a proponent of development-oriented transit as a way to drive smart density and provide overall affordability to residents beyond just rents. The challenge is that as we continue to grow, our success has resulted in a tightening of the market and low vacancy rates, threatening to create a city in which only those in the upper incomes can afford to live.

Question: What policies will you pursue to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing in Minneapolis? Since state financing for affordable housing is limited, what additional funding sources would you seek? What are some alternative policies you’d pursue to remove barriers to housing affordability which would compensate for this lack of funding?

We have a great tool to support the construction of new affordable housing units in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I have a long history of support for that tool because it is such a critical part of how we approach housing. But it's clear that the trust fund is also insufficient alone to address the needs we have. That's why I created the Family Housing Initiative in 2016, which enabled the Trust Fund to provide first-in dollars to create units for larger families. That initiative already has seeded a project in the 12th ward that will house 16 families experiencing homelessness. And it's why I initiated Minneapolis' first investment into preserving our naturally-occurring affordable housing stock. We have long been losing far more affordable units than we could build through the Trust Fund. We have to use the funding we do have to continue to take a creative approach to housing and not be afraid to try new approaches. I support pursuing a strong inclusionary housing policy across the City.

Question: The vast majority of Minneapolis is zoned exclusively for single-family homes, while most of the units we currently build are in large apartment buildings in or near downtown. Single-family homes and large apartment buildings tend to be more expensive per unit than missing middle housing (for example, a fourplex). How do we use the currently ongoing update to the Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan to allow a mix of housing types across Minneapolis that are less expensive to rent, own, and build? 

Simply put, we have to adopt a Comprehensive Plan that aligns with the goals we've already set for ourselves. In addition to encouraging density along transit corridors where we know it is needed, the Comprehensive Plan should be explicit in applying a racial equity lens to land use policy.

Do you think there’s a place for light commercial spaces like small cafes and corner stores in neighborhood interiors? Do you believe there are other areas where restrictive zoning has led to worse outcomes for neighborhoods?

Absolutely. Maintaining and encouraging walkable access to small-scale services and business are part of how we create vibrant neighborhoods. That's what people mean when they talk about the neighborhood character that sets us apart and makes Minneapolis an attractive place to live.

Are there any other issues related to housing or zoning that you believe are important enough to address as a city council member? What specific policy goals would you pursue in this area?

As mayor I've focused on the tools we have at the City to help ensure everyone has access to a safe and affordable place to live and that every neighborhood in the City is a desirable place to live. I've also recognized that Minneapolis isn't an island, and that we can't create an equitable housing market without taking a regional approach. I've been convening my fellow mayors in the metro area to move toward a regional approach to align housing policy and investments in order to promote housing mobility throughout the region. I plan to continue that work.