Randy Shaw Loves Minneapolis – Meet Him Tomorrow

Generation Priced OutRandy Shaw’s new book, “Generation Priced Out“, is full of info about housing affordability in the US. It’s a complex topic, and Shaw is well versed in housing debates, patterns, and studies from his perch dealing with preserving low-income housing in San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive market.

One of the challenges I always face when trying to sort through complex housing debates is how to compare places that are have different political, economic, and social patterns. While housing is getting more expensive in Minneapolis, we are not San Francisco or New York. There are huge differences politically, geographically, and economically between these metro areas. That makes it difficult for me to compare “lessons” between one place and another, but at the same time, there are some deeply rooted general patterns when it comes to US housing policy, most importantly, the underfunding of affordable housing in this country and the many hurdles that stand in the way of attempts to regulate the housing market (e.g. municipal fragmentation).

Anyway, Randy Shaw’s book makes an attempt to paint the big picture, and argues forcefully for a mix of more market-rate housing and strong support for affordable housing funding and renters’ and tenants’ rights.

He particularly loves the Minneapolis 2040 plan and the ensuing debates over deregulating and loosening controls on density. Here are some of the highlights of his section on Minneapolis, where he dives in during the chapter called “How Neighborhood Groups Stop Housing”:

Lisa Bender had the political courage to back new housing despite the intimidation tactics of neighborhood associations long accustomed to getting their way. … Bender’s generation is planning Minneapolis’ future. As in other cities, new groups like MSPyimby have emerged to challenge homeowner-controlled neighborhood associations that have long promoted housing policies that exclude the new middle class. Another pro-housing group in the city is Neighbors for More Neighbors. Its message about housing echoes what is increasingly being heard across the nation: “single-family zoning is the biggest roadblock when it comes to providing access to jobs, schools, public transit, or even quiet and clean air…Advocates of this have spent the past few decades working to keep more people out of their neighborhoods, causing displacement and gentrification.”

When I spoke with [Russ] Adams in April 2018 he noted that local groups primarily concerned with affordability have had tensions with pro-density forces opposed to attaching affordability requirements to city policies encouraging more housing. … Adams thinks four-plex policies should include 25 percent affordability (one in four unites) to expand housing options for those being priced out of the city. With hundreds of city-owned sites available for thousands of new units in the Minneapolis area, an intentional zoning policy targeted for people of color, offers great hope for a more affordable city. As Adams told me, “Now that the outside world has discovered Minneapolis real estate, it is imperative that we challenge and require the private sector to be part of the solution.”


Shaw will be in town this Thursday (tomorrow) at Magers and Quinn bookstore, to read from his book and answer questions about housing and local politics. He’ll be at

5 thoughts on “Randy Shaw Loves Minneapolis – Meet Him Tomorrow

  1. Elizabeth Larey

    To require a 4 plex to include one affordable unit will drive the cost of the other 3 up. This is simple math. It’s pretty obvious the pro density group does not get this. So if you are a middle income person, you will now be priced out. So that will leave the high end and low income. The middle is the backbone of any city

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      The edit makes it unclear, but Russ Adams is not necessarily associated with “the pro density group.” He’s Executive Director of The Alliance: http://thealliancetc.org/about/aboutus/

      As someone who would self-identify as part of the “pro-density group,” I think a 25% inclusionary zoning requirement is much too high and would result in significant reduction in new housing. Indeed, it’s been mentioned as desirable by members of the Red Sign Brigade, presumably because they also understand that it would be a big barrier to new small multi-units.

      1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

        Yeah, they represent the two key points that Shaw is trying to make: having more market rate housing, and strong funding / support for affordable housing and renters’ rights.

  2. Scott

    How many Minneapolis neighborhood associations actually opposed the 2040 Plan? My understanding is that most submitted comments with few outright opposing the plan. In some cases some neighborhood associations actually supported it. The quotes above somewhat distort the actual facts of the Minneapolis 2040 Plan and feed into the narrative that keeps popping up on this site that neighborhood associations oppose density, apartments, transit, etc. This is not the case for my neighborhood association, which is located in Lisa Bender’s ward.

    1. Andrew Evans

      I can’t comment on the 2040 debate, but a handful of years ago my neighborhood board was against anything with the “Landlord” word. So if these new housing units were ran by a nonprofit it was more or less ok and welcomed, if it was involving a private landlord then there were all kinds of voices against it. Like Havenbrook Homes, there was plenty of pushback and comments against them. Partly for good reason due to some of the less than upstanding landlords Mpls has and has historically had.

      The problem though is that on one hand they (residents, neighborhood boards, etc) don’t like Havenbrook to own over 100+ units, but are ok with a nonprofit owning and maintaining that many. If or when things go south, it makes no difference if it’s private or public, since a nonprofit can fall on hard times or change course. I guess for instance there was some talk about one local non profit falling short on the promises of background checks and there have been complaints about some of their properties by neighbors. So it goes both ways.

      So I think that would be part of some of the pushback groups had, if they had any.

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