The podcast this week is a conversation with Jeremy Schroeder, a director of a non-profit focused on affordable housing. Schroeder is running for City Council in Ward 11, on the city border in South Minneapolis. We sat down a few months ago at the Wild Mind Ales brewery to talk about his background, the Twin Cities’ housing market, what cities can do to create more affordable housing, and what the future holds for Ward 11. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
Also, the podcast this week is sponsored by Bang Brewing.
Bang Brewing Company is Minnesota’s only dedicated organic brewery. Established in 2013 by a husband and wife owner/brewer team, Bang brews a range of high-quality ales and lagers. The award-winning pre-fab grain bin brewery/taproom and beer garden tout their focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility. Goodness is brewing.
Thanks to Bang Brewing for sponsoring the podcast, and if you would like to sponsor future episodes of the streets.mn podcast, please reach out to me, Bill Lindeke, for more details. The podcast intro music was written and produced by Dan Choma. Thank you so much for listening.
[rough transcript and highlights]
Q: Who are you and why are you rnning for City Council?
I’ve been an attorney for 14 years working in the nonprofit sector. Right now I’m at the Minnesota Housing Partnership working to increase the number of affordable housing units in the state of Minnesota. Before moving here I was the executive director of the Illinois coalition to abolish the death penalty. We became the 5th state to abolish the death penalty in the modern era of the death penalty. After that, we moved here. I got to move somewhere that reflects my values. If you start to look at progressive values and places that can be an example of that. Minneapolis really leads the state in showing what’s possible when you believe in community and believe in each other.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Minneapolis housing crunch?
Housing is an interesting problem. It is solvable. We have solutions. Other people running for office have asked me what should they be talking about on affordable housing. We need to be looking broader. We really need to be thinking bigger about the landscape. Affordable housing means adding affordable units. We’ve never met that need for decades. It’s something the public has to understand, that while we are adding units we’re also losing units at an incredible rate. We’ve been able to build new units, but it hasn’t been able to keep up with the loss.
Q: How does the city fit into the affordable housing picture, now more than ever?
The city is going to have a much more important role, because the Federal government is giving less and less money. I feel the federal government has an absolute role to make sure people have housing. I feel it’s a critical human right. We want people to thrive in this country, and we need to give them the ways to do that. The money from the federal government has been dwindling. The state has been giving more money in recent years to fill in the gap, but the city needs to step up. We could be doing more. Right now we have the Housing Trust Fund. They’re also taking part, though it’s more of a Hennepin County program, helping with naturally occurring affordable housing (NOA). That would be one way to stop the loss of affordable housing. But we could be a little bit more proactive and be able to catch things before they go. We need to make sure things can be rehabilitated.
Q: What is your position on inclusionary zoning anyway?
Inclusionary zoning is something I support but I want to caution people that it’s not the only answer. There are pros and cons. The pros of that are you’re going to be getting units built where you’re not normally getting them built. You’ll be getting them built closer to suburban area, the areas that are really demanding growth. From a city standpoint, you’re really sending a message that if you’re going to build in our city affordable housing is important.
The cons of that are that we do need to watch that we’re asking developers to pay that cost. I am a proponent of thinking about who’s going to pay for these policies, and we need to make sure that in the long term the way we fund a policy reflects the policy we want to see implemented. There’s a very fine line to make sure development keeps going. Where it has been successful has been in areas where people want to develop. Saint Louis Park has in some ways the most stringent, having a policy without a buyout fee. In most places, with inclusionary zoning you have a buyout so that affordable units can be built somewhere else. That’s being debated, they’re still studying it. Saint Louis Park is pretty unique, but that’s also a hot neighborhood. They made it a point to say that if you’re going to build here, you’re going to increase affordable units. There’s no wiggle room. I would be pushing to not have the payout, it’s so important that we need to make sure we’re putting in affordable housing whenever we’re putting in new units. I want to make sure we do that in a way that doesn’t stifle development, but that’s a harder part of the question. How do we make sure we do that so developers can still build development?
Q: How do you feel about Mayor Hodges’ stated population growth goals for Minneapolis?
If we are ranked high and people want to live here, we’re going to have population growth. I’m a big proponent of planning. My issue with having a 500,000 person goal is that we need to be working toward it. We need to make sure we have systems in place to have affordable units, and that everyone in Minneapolis has housing choice. And I don’t know we have the policies to make sure that happens yet. We have to think much more holistically about it. We’re very proud of our bike lanes. But my main goal is how does the city help you lead an extraordinary life. How do you make that easier?
Q: Tell me about Ward 11. Where am I, anyway?
We have to think about what we can afford, what the state is going to give us, and what’s going to make the most sense. We have to talk about what density means, that’s a really hard talk, especially down here where we are mainly single-family homes. We’re not a suburb but there is that neighborhood feel. Being close to Cub Foods and the Crosstown and 35W, the rest of the neighborhood likes how we feel like a forgotten part. If we talk about wanting more development we have to talk about density. We need more attention from City Council. We’ve gotten the reputation for being quiet but that doesn’t mean we need some attention about making the community more vibrant.
Q: What are your positions on street design and transit? You mention it on your website.
When we approach any changes to roadways or transit routes, it comes from that car history. We really need a much longer-term plan. There are some opportunities with the comprehensive plans that are coming up in 2018 to integrate housing and transit. I don’t have a great plan for how we go from the deaths we have now to zero. Planning is going to make that much easier to do.
Q: What about the rest of your platform?
Right now we don’t have proactive leadership. We have phone calls that aren’t being answered, emails that aren’t being returned. I’ve heard that from just talking to neighbors being on the campaign. It’s a much different job that it was over the last 7 years. People are using email, Facebook, and Twitter to contact people. You see that with businesses, you get a response. You asked earlier what’s our neighborhood like? We’re a quiet kind of tough. What’s happened in Ward 11 is that we’ve been making our own answers. But what would happen if we had the resources of the city, a proactive advocate for Ward 11 thinking about city solutions. The second thing is working on closing the racial equity gaps. We’re on the top of the list and if we’re going to continue to be a city that attracts and keeps the best talent over the next 20 -30 years, we need to erase the gaps.
Q: What is your position on the $15-per-hour minimum wage debate?
I’m for raising the minimum wage. I want to make sure we have a deeper conversation with businesses while we do that. I would have loved to see how our City Council members should have been getting ahead of those problems. Let’s talk about property taxes while we talk about these other solutions. We need to be reaching out to the businesses that see this as too difficult, that are scared of this. We need to be a city that leads with its progressive values and that makes sure its businesses are thriving.
One other part of it to bring in is housing, the Minnesota housing partnership, it will cost $17 / hr to rent an average apartment in the twin cities. I am concerned that businesses will just cross the [Richfield] border, but Minneapolis needs to be an example. We should be at the forefront, and in the middle of solving these problems. What will Richfield do when we’re getting their best workers coming into Minneapolis because they can make more?
Q: Any last thoughts?
We’re at a time when politics is crucially important. I thought the stakes were high before, but with the election of Trump, we need to be more eloquent and bigger dreamers about the future of Minneapolis, with businesses that thrive and that offers opportunities for success, that has everything that a global city can want.
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