Rybak on his Way to Solving the Affordable Housing Crisis
(a semi-satyrical piece)

On the eve of the January 5th Citizens Summit on Affordable Housing, Mayor R.T. Rybak is able to report significant progress in the effort to stimulate affordable housing in Minneapolis. The vacancy rate for rental housing in the Twin Cities has risen to 1.5% from 1.1% last summer.

Markets often act in advance of concrete developments. Mayor-Elect Rybak’s Affordable Housing Transition Team worked hard on a plan to ease the shortage of affordable housing in the city, encouraging investors and developers to make their own, equally energetic plans to boost the city’s housing supply. R.T.’s firm commitment to housing issues for the better part of a year during the mayoral campaign may also have had a stimulating effect. The promise of increased funding for housing and relaxed city regulations has evidently brought quick results.

In fairness, it should be said that, to a certain extent, the improvement in the vacancy rate is due to tenants doubling up with others during economic hard times, to continuing construction of residential units in the suburbs, and to the resettlement of Somalis and other immigrant groups concentrated in the Twin Cities to other parts of the country.

The improved opportunity to rent apartments or buy housing is cheery news to Minneapolis residents who have long yearned for a place to call home, especially those at the lower end of the income scale. “For rent” signs have sprouted up all over distressed neighborhoods such as Phillips. More than a few landlords report double-digit vacancy rates for the first time in many years. Many sit on empty units. In some cases, rents have started to come down as improved supply forces price readjustments.

This is no cause for complacency, though. Many renters and would-be home buyers continue to face a tough situation in their search for decent, affordable housing. We must not let the spotlight of public attention and concern turn away from the provision of housing for low- and middle-income city residents who form the core of its work force. Minneapolis city government must continue to be vigorously involved in this area.

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