We are a group of coalition partners working to protect tenants and preserve housing access and affordability. We experience, and support those experiencing, the impact of gentrification and other housing injustices.
By suggesting that low wages are the only problem, Myron Orfield and Will Stancil missed the mark in their Counterpoint (“Gentrification isn’t the rental problem; poverty is,” Dec. 1). Denying the existence of gentrification in our region comes across as a “world is flat” argument.
Even a cursory exploration of recent research (Minnesota Housing Partnership’s “Sold Out” report, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs’ gentrification report) or a skim of recent stories in which residents of properties like the Crossroads at Penn, QT Properties, Lowry Grove, Southgate, and Glendale Townhomes have been threatened with displacement or priced out would provide both statistical and experiential evidence that gentrification is a real problem in Minneapolis and our broader region.
While stagnant wages do play a role in limiting access to housing, defining the current problem our region faces as gentrification is vital. It opens a critical conversation on the lack of access and of protections facing renters, especially low-income renters and renters of color — and especially in a tight rental market with less than 3 percent vacancy.
By pointing only to low wages as a cause of limited housing options, Orfield and Stancil give a pass to elected officials who could intervene with policy and regulations in the housing market. They’re letting property owners and developers off the hook; they stand to make the most financial gain at the expense of our hardworking neighbors. Those of us working to preserve housing affordability are not interested in making “easy scapegoats” of new residents but rather are interested in holding these powerful stakeholders and decisionmakers accountable.
Contrary to the authors’ claims, advocates and community members have offered a wealth of solutions that would curb the effects of gentrification. A “just cause” eviction policy, for instance, would allow for stronger tenant organizing without fear of retaliation, while removing a tool that’s too frequently used to displace tenants without reason.
Public sector commitments to one-for-one unit replacement where affordable units are being lost, especially in increasingly hot housing markets, is another promising approach.
Strengthening and expanding the state’s right-of-first-refusal policy to apply to all renters rather than just manufactured home parks would provide a means for residents of rental units to purchase their property, likely with support from philanthropic and public resources, to preserve housing affordability.
And increasing and protecting public housing units like Glendale to stop privatization that leads to displacement and gentrification would also serve to create stable neighborhoods and communities.
This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a snapshot of the many ideas that are needed to protect people’s right to stay in their homes and communities.
Owen Duckworth is a coalition organizer at the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. This commentary is submitted on behalf of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, Defend Glendale, Equity in Place, Frogtown Neighborhood Association, Hope Community, Housing Justice Center, Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia, Lowry Grove Residents Association, Minnesotans Standing Together to End Poverty, New American Academy, Urban Homeworks and Voices for Racial Justice.