Our City's Housing Apartheid

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The Star Tribune, on March 8,  wrote an article regarding the department of Regulatory Services of the city of Minneapolis and their three grade tier system to grade the living conditions of rental apartment buildings across the city. Tier 1 reflects a building with no code violations which means license is cheaper and inspections are less needed, and tier 3 refers to poorer conditions where rental licensing is more expensive along with more frequent city inspections.

Sounds great right? Depends who you ask. From a bifocal perspective, tenants and organizers that work in housing issues say this system is failing whereas landlords and the head of Regulatory Services, Noah Schuchman, simply state that, “We make adjustments as they are appropriate”.

I suggest to our readers new to this issue to see this under a new light...

Imagine if a certain credit score was required in order to shop at a certain type of grocery store. Now imagine if you could only access stores where the produce bins were lined with mold, and cockroaches creep out as you pick an item off the shelf. Then, you call the city and they tell you that your stores where you shop are ranked as their most sanitary businesses and that they are alleging that they are handling the matter at an appropriate pace. Even if the city were to shut down these businesses, no policy is in place to make sure that you have access to an alternative grocery store within your qualifying tier. Meanwhile some of the same grocery owners are building a new series of grocery stores for another class of consumers with better credit, and who incidentally happen to predominantly share the same skin color. For the sake of this article this higher tier of grocery store is called, Full Foods or Funds.

The idea of having to qualify to shop at a grocery store sounds preposterous, yet this is directly parallel to how rental housing works. Because a booming housing market raises the values for all properties, a landlord can neglect a building occupied by tenants, and still make a profit after holding down that place from decades past when the market values were much lower.

To learn more about renters’ issues beyond this abridged allegory, we at CNO encourage concerned readers to contact us to find out about the next Renter’s Committee meeting.  Come talk with tenants and Brettina Davis, an organizer with years of experience under her belt, to talk about our actions within Corcoran to amplify the voices of these issues and to work for solutions for better housing conditions.

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