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Minneapolis candidates for mayor spar on housing issues

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Candidates for Minneapolis mayor, all DFLers, debated Monday.
Candidates for Minneapolis mayor, from left, Raymond Dehn, Jacob Frey, Tom Hoch, Betsy Hodges and Nekima Levy-Pounds debate on Monday.
Tom Baker for MPR News

The five leading candidates for Minneapolis mayor made some of their final pleas to voters Monday, focusing on housing and equity issues in the city.

Raymond Dehn, Jacob Frey, Tom Hoch, Betsy Hodges and Nekima Levy-Pounds were mostly cordial during the forum hosted by Tom Weber at the Minnesota Public Radio studios, with only minor spats coming while discussing housing policy. 

All five are running under the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party banner, but none have the party's endorsement. 

The candidates discussed a swath of issues including education, racial inequity, policing reform, climate change and how city government should work. 

However, housing seemed to be the issue where their views differ most significantly. Even the candidates' language on the topic differed — some called it a housing "crisis," while others used more muted terms.

Here are the highlights of where the five stand regarding housing policy in Minneapolis:

• Raymond Dehn: Dehn says the rental market is "out of control." Renters are more than half of Minneapolis' population, he says, and the city needs to step in to tackle major rent increases. He suggested rent stabilization measures and penalizing "predatory" landlords. He cited his experience securing money for affordable housing in the state Legislature. The private sector can't solve housing problems, he said.

• Jacob Frey: Frey said Minneapolis needs to build deeper affordable housing. He wants to use the value capture model to take money from property value increases to help pay for affordable housing. Frey also says the city should extend requirements that mandate affordable housing developments remain at that price point. Those deals usually last 15 to 20 years, said Frey, the current Ward 3 City Council representative. 

• Tom Hoch: Hoch quickly cited high property taxes in the city as a primary issue relating to affordable housing. He says Minneapolis not being sensitive to its property taxes can make affordable housing into unaffordable housing. He also said it's important that the housing authority be given the resources it needs. If not, the city will have high-rise housing with decaying infrastructure, he said. Hoch cautioned against requiring a certain number of affordable housing units, saying that cost could get passed to consumers.

• Betsy Hodges: Hodges, the incumbent, noted that she's facilitated housing discussions with regional leaders so the focus isn't all on Minneapolis. She also said it's important to emphasize preservation of affordable housing that already exists, as it's cheaper than building new units. Hodges also noted her administration has been monitoring the affordable housing situation and that she wants to address high eviction rates. 

• Nekima Levy-Pounds: Levy-Pounds says there's a "crisis" of housing in the city. There are 17,000 people on the public housing waiting list, and the city needs greater housing density, she said. Current policy doesn't have a viable solution to address this, she says. Levy-Pounds said the poor and working poor don't have a voice in City Hall, but she could offer one. She suggested changing city zoning code to allow for more multi-family dwellings. Levy-Pounds also said the city needs to have more input from neighborhood associations on housing issues.

Video of the entire Minneapolis mayoral debate