May Monthly Home Update

Dan Gregory April 19, 2018

Welcome to the May 2018 edition of the Monthly Home Update, which was formerly called the Affordable Housing Update.  This is where you can learn what is going on in the larger culture with affordable homes and homelessness. 

On April 11, 1968, merely one week after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.The Fair Housing Act is considered one of the “big three” of civil rights legislation along with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The hope was the act would bring down the many barriers that kept African Americans from attaining adequate and affordable housing. But a number of articles show that the law has fallen short of its intended goals. Walter Mondale, then a US Senator from Minnesota, co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate. Writing a recent op-ed in the New York Times, the former Vice President calls the act the Civil Rights Law we ignored. Mondale notes that the law has not fulfilled its original intent:

Though the overarching aim of the law was to create integrated communities, Congress could not simply direct the whole of America to start integrating. Instead, like all laws, the Fair Housing Act tried to accomplish its goal through a variety of more-detailed provisions, each of which, its authors felt, would facilitate integration.

In private housing markets, where Congress’s authority is indirect, the law does what it can: forbids discrimination and segregation. Prohibitions include discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, racially targeted advertising for housing and discriminatory real estate transactions.

But the act also sought more-direct remedies to the problem of segregation. Congress has nearly unlimited authority to issue commands to the federal bureaucracy. The Fair Housing Act utilizes this power by requiring all executive departments and agencies to administer programs relating to housing in a manner that “affirmatively” furthers fair housing.

Although these provisions are some of the law’s strongest tools, they also have proved some of the most difficult to carry out. The bureaucracy has often allowed people who prefer the segregated status quo to obstruct and delay. HUD, for instance, did not get around to fully carrying out these provisions until 2015.

Mondale’s lament is echoed in an April 14 editorial in the New York Times where they note African Americans still face red-lining. At the local level, former State Senator Myron Orfield writes that Minnesota’s effort to create fair housing started out strong in the late 60s and early 70s through the efforts of the Metropolitan Council, but has since waned. The final story related to the Fair Housing Act is about how Nelson Rockefeller, the Republican governor of New York during the 1960s, created a superagency that was able to create affordable homes across the state. It was a successful effort in creating homes for low and middle income New Yorkers, until the suburbs weakened the agency in the mid-70s.

Speaking of suburbs, citizens from Brooklyn Park to St. Louis Park to Bloomington are coming together as the Suburban Hennepin Housing Coalition to work for more affordable homes[DG2] . The Minneapolis Star Tribune interviewed members of this grassroots effort to make the suburbs more equitable:

The Housing Coalition, a network of a dozen community groups from Bloomington to Brooklyn Park, is pushing suburban cities to preserve affordable housing and advance the rights of low-income tenants. Sometimes it’s simple steps to protect tenants against displacement. Other undertakings, like creating local trust funds for affordable housing, are bold and more complicated.

The coalition’s mission is to spread the idea that people of all racial and socioeconomic levels should be able to live anywhere in the west metro. “It’s not appropriate to think that there should be one area … where all the low-income people live because that’s where the affordable housing is,” Saltzman said.

As the cost of higher education rises, we are starting to see a rise in homelessness among college students. National Public Radio has the story.

When someone leaves an abusive partner, they are often leaving what was “stable” housing. There are few options available for women as they try to start over again. When there are no other housing options, many women go back to live with their abuser. The Fargo Forum describes the situation facing many women in Minnesota. Another group in need of housing are those in recovery.  MinnPost tells about one such home which gives those in recovery the stability they need to stay clean.


Vancouver has one of the highest housing prices not just in Canada, but in North America.  Housing is in short supply. The mayor of Vancouver came up with an idea to provide more affordable homes in this West Coast city: taxing empty homes.


Like many states, Utah is trying to find ways to both combat homelessness and building affordable homes. Making sure Utahns have a place to call home is a bipartisan issue and this Next City story shows how the state is working to make sure all people have a home.                                             

Last November, the Plymouth City Council approved the building of Cranberry Ridge, which will provide 44 homes that will make a small dent in the lack of workforce housing. Such housing for young workers is a growing issue, and cities across Minnesota and the nation are working to bring more housing for working families. The Minnesota Daily talks about a new workforce housing complex going up in the Prospect Park Neighborhood in Minneapolis. A housing developer is proposing building 220 units of workforce housing in Minnetonka along the planned Southwest Light Rail line. Workforce housing isn’t just for blue collar workers, but also for a class that we don’t always think about: artists



That’s it for the housing update for May. We will see you again same time next month.