How progressive will new City Council be with public housing?

Some are already calling the incoming Minneapolis City Council the most progressive in the United States. That means the new Council will be determining, through its actions, the meaning of the word “progressive.” Working class and marginalized folks in Minneapolis will be watching closely.

We’ve watched as cities sold off public property on the cheap to private speculators who quickly brought them up to market-rate, telling citizens that no, this wasn’t corruption, it was simply “innovation.”

We’ve watched as “affordable housing” became a meaningless slogan in cities where loophole-filled schemes catering to real estate speculators meant the rents deemed “affordable” are still rising, day after day.

These same speculators for decades have drooled at the prospect of acquiring ownership stake in Minneapolis public housing, complete with pathways to massive profits through raising rents, displacing families, and transforming public land into private real estate.

The project of neoliberal and right-wing politicians has always been to facilitate the privatization and plunder of public resources. Trump and his Housing and Urban Development (HUD) chief, Ben Carson, have made it clear that privatization is their objective for public housing across the country.

Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) director Gregory Russ is trying to sell the Trump/Carson plan to Minneapolis as “progressive.” He tells us privatization is the only “pathway to preservation” for public housing. But we know this carrot-and-stick approach is how neoliberals have always forced their schemes onto the public. Greg Russ no doubt learned these techniques of manipulating the public during his tenure at shadowy Abt Associates.

In reality, Russ and the Trump administration are working in lockstep with the privatization of public housing as their shared objective. MPHA’s latest plan submitted to HUD openly admits to this.

Minneapolis City Council could stop these plans. Funding exists that could truly preserve public housing for the public, not for private speculators.

But will they do it? Will the new “progressive” city council save public housing for residents and the public, or will they sell us out to Russ, Carson, and Trump and transform “progressive” into yet another empty buzzword? Working class and marginalized folks in Minneapolis will be watching closely.

References: In its annual plan submitted to HUD on November 13, 2017, MPHA states its privatization initiative “is consistent with the strategies expressed by Secretary Carson during his June 9, 2017 Congressional testimony, “The old model was the government came in with a whole bunch of money and said, build this facility for people with AIDS. Build this facility for low‐income people in this area, etc. The new model is government seeds the program and then facilitates public‐private partnerships by creating win‐win situations.'” (pg. 39-40 of the PDF pages)

—Defend Glendale & Public Housing Coalition