Minneapolis mayoral candidates offer plans for housing shortage

The Twin Cities faces one of the nation's worst housing shortages, and Minneapolis is feeling the strain in increasing home prices and rents.

The average home sold for $310,000 in September, up 19.2 percent from the same month in 2018. A two-bedroom apartment rented for $1,425 in August, up six percent from a year ago.

FOX 9 asked the three frontrunners in the mayor's race for their plans to address the issue.

Incumbent Jacob Frey said the city has tripled its investment in affordable housing during his first term, but acknowledged the city still lacks enough low-income units. He said the city needs a "full-on regional approach" to the shortage.

"We need to do more," Frey said in an interview this week. "These issues are complex. They take cities working with counties, working with the state and federal governments as well because the truth is that Minneapolis cannot do it alone."

Challengers Kate Knuth and Sheila Nezhad endorsed a tax levy to support public housing.

"We’ve underinvested in housing both in the city and the metro region for over a decade, so my plan starts with building more housing -- more deeply affordable housing, including public housing," Knuth said. "So I do support a public housing levy."

Nezhad said she wanted Minneapolis to incentivize more deeply affordable housing at 30 percent of median area income. For a family of four, median area income is $104,900 in 2021.

"I think we need to build more affordable housing – both public and private -- and have more incentives to build that housing," Nezhad said.

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Rent control

Separate from the mayor's race, Minneapolis voters will decide whether to give City Council and the next mayor permission to limit rent increases across the city. All three of the frontrunners say they will vote for the ballot question, but the similarities end there.

Frey said he is generally opposed to rent control and did not commit to supporting any ordinance passed by City Council if voters give policymakers the authority.

"It doesn't work and is counterproductive," Frey said of rent control policies. He said he wouldn't vote for the proposed 3 percent cap on St. Paul's ballot if he lived there.

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Knuth declined to say how she would limit rent increases if voters gave permission to do so.

"I look forward to digging in as mayor with our council on making an ordinance that meets those values I talked about, which are addressing the needs of renters, of small landlords, and making sure we continue to build more housing," she said.

Nezhad was the only top candidate in our interviews to endorse a specific rent increase cap.

"I do support either 3 percent or tied to inflation. I think those two make sense," she said.