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Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: David Wiester

City/Town: Minneapolis 

Legislative District: 63A

Party: LMN

1: A national poll in May 2020 found that 78% of the public believes our elected leaders are not putting enough attention on people’s need for help to pay for their housing during the coronavirus outbreak. What do you believe is the role of government in ensuring everyone has access to housing?

Government's first responsibility is to remove needless obstacles against the construction of affordable housing. Archaic laws that were intended to keep Black people out of White neighborhoods have impeded the construction of enough multi-unit housing to keep up with demand. In addition to removing these regulatory obstacles, we also need to provide tax incentives for developers to construct more affordable housing. Government may also need to directly commission the construction of more affordable housing. If the federal government fails to provide enough renters' assistance to people economically impacted by the pandemic, then the state should take up the slack.

2: In Minnesota, 80 of 87 counties do not have the capacity to provide sufficient shelter or temporary housing to those who are homeless. Nationally, a study of US cities found that 25 percent of all requests for emergency shelter went unmet. What will you do to end homelessness? 

I would work to fund the construction of more housing (shelters, tiny houses) for the homeless. Tent communities in public parks is not a long-term solution.

3: According to the Census Bureau's July 22 Household Pulse Survey for Minnesota, and Stout’s analysis of this data, there are 132,000 potential eviction filings over the next 4 months in Minnesota. Over 90% of evictions in Minnesota are for non-payment of rent. What will you do to prevent evictions?

If the feds fail to provide adequate assistance to renters who have been economically impacted by the pandemic, the state needs to step in and pick up the slack. I am open to a New Deal-style approach of the state offering short-term employment to people who've lost their jobs/businesses so that they have a source of income during this crisis. Evictions for tenant marijuana use are likely to account for a very small portion of housing insecurity during this pandemic. However, one of the many benefits of re-legalizing marijuana is to prevent people from being evicted over their use of a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol.

4: Being denied where to live because of race, family status, or disability is discrimination. In Minnesota, 53% more whites are homeowners than Black residents, a statistic that dwarfs the national racial homeownership gap of 30%. What meaningful steps will you take to address the root problems of racial disparities in housing?

I support raising the minimum wage to a living wage. The people who would benefit from this are disproportionately People of Color, in Minnesota. (I support a temporary wage subsidy for small businesses to help them adjust to this increase in labor costs.) Many zoning restrictions against the construction of multi-unit housing are rooted in racial discrimination. Minnesota should pass a preemption law against these restrictions. The Minneapolis 2040 plan is a good start but doesn’t cover the whole state. The state should make homebuyers’ classes available targeted towards Communities of Color. Among other things (e.g. budgeting, assumption of financial risk), these classes should give people the tools they need to protect them from predatory lenders. I'd be OK with sending questionnaires to prospective home buyers seeking information on what properties their realtor showed them. These questionnaires would hopefully identify patterns of discriminatory showings so that they can be addressed.

5: Our housing crisis includes a lack of safe, stable homes in Minnesota. The 2018 Minnesota Task Force on Housing identified a need for 300,000 new ownership and rental homes over the next decade. While there are 180,000 Minnesota renters with incomes at 30% area median income, only 100 units affordable to these families are produced each year. What steps will you take to support Minnesotans’ access to homes, especially for under resourced households?

I would work to remove needless obstacles against the construction of affordable housing. Archaic laws that were intended to keep Black people out of White neighborhoods have impeded the construction of enough multi-unit housing to keep up with demand. In addition to removing these regulatory obstacles, we also need to provide tax incentives for developers to construct more affordable housing. I support inclusionary zoning. Government may also need to directly commission the construction of more affordable housing. In this case, the matter of whether such government-commissioned housing would be operated by the government or sold off to private interests is an issue where I would welcome the input of my constituents.

6: More than ever, the public understands the connection between housing and health, as well as education, transportation, and more. What housing-based strategy would you use to improve health outcomes for Minnesotans?

As addressed in my previous responses, I want to take a variety of steps to increase the supply of affordable housing. Presumably, reducing the number of people who have housing insecurity would remove some obstacles to these people's physical and mental health. I think that the health benefits of consistent access to indoor plumbing, being sheltered from Minnesota weather, and not having to stress about where it’s safe to sleep are fairly obvious. I’d support municipalities in their efforts to have their public transportation connect newly constructed affordable housing with healthcare facilities and schools. Preferably, affordable housing should be constructed near pre-existing public transportation routes.

7: Over 188,000 Minnesota renter households between the ages of 25 and 44 are income-qualified to purchase a home but continue to rent, including 64,000 households of color. What steps will you take to increase opportunities for renters to purchase homes, condos, or cooperative ownership models, if they choose?

I don't have any expertise on this, specifically. I am open to the input of my constituents on this matter.

8: Including community recommendations when developing policies and programs is a best practice for effective and lasting solutionsHow will you include those impacted by housing needs in developing and implementing housing solutions?

I'm in favor of sending people out to actively recruit low-income renters and homeless people to participate in public meetings/listening sessions about housing issues. Recruiters should also be prepared to solicit comments from people on the spot – since some people may not be willing or able to attend public meetings/listening sessions. Other than that, I don't have any expertise on this, specifically. I am open to the input of my constituents on this matter.