The following post is from an unpublished December 2018 letter to the editor submission to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council are determined to constructively address our affordable housing crisis. This is both necessary and commendable. What’s more, the City’s 2019 budget aims to do something about the huge racial disparity in homeownership rates. This is critically important to improving the lives of all of our neighbors, as owning a home is the main way that lower- and mid-income families build wealth in today’s society. The budget proposal aims to dramatically increase homeownership opportunities on City-owned properties through a $5 million investment in the Minneapolis Homes program. In addition to a spike in City-owned properties in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, many previously owner-occupied properties were bought out and converted from homestead to rental. Rent rates are far outpacing income, making it harder and harder for many families to make ends meet. The good news for these families is that sustainable homeownership is more accessible than many believe. Community-based, culturally inclusive nonprofits offer free one-on-one professional home buyer advising services designed to map the journey – from fixing credit scores to accessing down payment and closing cost assistance programs. They also offer home buyer education classes that cover the complicated transaction processes from start to finish. For more information on these groups, visit the nonprofit Minnesota Homeownership Center at www.hocmn.org. Kudos to Mayor Frey and the Minneapolis City Council for taking on the issue of affordable housing and addressing the disparities in ownership that hold our entire community back.