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housing-2223A 1935 Minneapolis Planning Area Designations map outlined clear housing boundaries to separate the community by race and income, but some are alleging the same is being done today throughout the Twin Cities.

According to a reproduction of the 1935 map, areas throughout Minneapolis were designated as “slum – Negro section” or “slum – foreign born.” While the map is archaic in the best possible light and downright racist in the worst, some say the same is happening today with communities in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park and Richfield. This time the wrongdoing is being pointed directly at the state and Metropolitan Council.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council of Affordable Housing), the state and Met Council are illegally concentrating the poor and minorities in Minneapolis, and cities such as Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park while not ensuring affordable housing options are being made available in more affluent suburbs such as Minnetonka, Wayzata, Edina and others. In fact, both Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park have plans to join the suit.

On the flipside, many residents trying to access affordable housing say they want housing in the communities where they currently reside and are most comfortable and do not want to seek housing in the far-reaching suburbs.

The passionate debate caused for an over capacity crowd at the Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, 106 E. Diamond Lake Rd., Minneapolis, during a recent (Oct. 30) town hall meeting presented by Congressman Keith Ellison, whose 5th Congressional District encompasses Minneapolis and both of the Brooklyns, and included Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sec. Julian Castro.

Ellison said the issue of affordable housing is not about shifting burden, but about providing greater access and more opportunity.

“It’s important for families to find fair and affordable housing in the community they live, but also, equally as important is for families to find fair and affordable housing in communities where they aspire to live,” said Ellison.

“Mobility is important. Some folks do want other opportunities … better opportunities (with suburban housing),” said Castro. “But we cannot forget about urban distressed communities and making investments in those communities.”

Ironically, Gary Cunningham, who is a council member with Metropolitan Council, said the state and local governments are in fact pushing segregated communities.

“There is an insatiable appetite to create dense communities of poverty here in the Twin Cities at both the state and local levels, and the fact is that race matters (when decisions on where affordable housing is placed),” said Cunningham. “While we’re patting ourselves on our backs for all the good we’ve done, we really should be ashamed. We have a 24 percent home ownership rate for people of color (in the state). We have an embarrassing and shameful situation.”

Paul Williams, CEO of Project for Pride in Living said affordable housing needs to be where people have the greatest access and in communities in which they already inhabit.

“I don’t buy that notion (that best neighborhoods are always in the outer suburbs),” said Williams. “Why is it that it is my folks who always have to get shipped out.”

Several citizens on both sides of the issue spoke out during the near two hour long meeting.

November 9, 2015
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