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Breaking the Cycle: Minneapolis explores options for renters to purchase their homes

7.24.2020

Our real estate system is firmly entrenched in policies that maintain white wealth and ownership. Since 2009, the U.S. housing market has undergone radical shifts in the way that real estate is financed and distributed. What began with a foreclosure crisis that devastated BIPOC homeownership has not let up. The housing market recovered in large part by further extracting from low-and middle-income households: rising rents and housing costs have helped prop up the recovery of REITs and white wealth, further compounding housing insecurity for low-income and people of color.  

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of color has prompted us to face—in real-time—the life or death reality wrought by housing instabilities. Put simply, stable, safe, affordable housing has never been more fundamental to the health of our communities or more out of reach.  

To counteract those forces, the City of Minneapolis is taking a courageous step to explore options for an Opportunity to Purchase Policy that would support the City’s goals of preserving housing stability, preventing involuntary displacement, and creating tenant ownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income Minneapolis renters.  Opportunity to Purchase Policies in other cities in the United States provide tenants, the government, or private entities selected by the government, such as affordable housing developers or community land trusts, the right to exercise the right to purchase a rental property when it comes up for sale. 

To assist with their policy development process, the City has engaged with LISC Twin Cities and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (located in Washington, D.C.) to: (1) evaluate Opportunity to Purchase Policies in other jurisdictions; (2) engage and cultivate the input of local stakeholders; (3) conduct an analysis of the real estate transaction process in the City and how different policy options would affect that process; and (4) determine what capacities are needed (both internal and external to the City) to successfully implement a policy.

Four council offices – Council Members Fletcher, Schroeder, Gordon, and Ellison – and a City staff team from Community Planning and Economic Development, Regulatory Services, and the City Attorney’s office are leading this work.

LISC Twin Cities and the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development plan to submit the report for consideration by the Minneapolis City Council in September 2020.  For further information, contact Katie Topinka, Minneapolis CPED Housing Policy Coordinator, at Katie.topinka@minneapolismn.gov, or Gretchen Nicholls, LISC Twin Cities, at gnicholls@lisc.org.