Affordable Housing

Suburban Poverty in the Twin Cities Area

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Alan Berube

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with several groups of stakeholders in the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) area to discuss local trends in, and responses to, suburbanizing poverty in the region.

Patterns of poverty in the Twin Cities region, it turns out, are pretty typical of those in large metro areas nationwide. Today, nearly 60 percent of people living below the poverty line in the MSP area live outside the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Between 2000 and 2013, their numbers rose a staggering 128 percent, compared to 37 percent in the two cities combined. Residents of the cities are still nearly twice as likely to be poor as their suburban counterparts, but that difference has narrowed in recent years.

In speaking with a diverse set of audiences in the region, I found that a few themes helped inform how leaders are approaching efforts to connect people to economic opportunity.

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Suburban Poverty in the US, in the UK

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Alan Berube

I had the chance to travel to London and Birmingham last week to speak to local audiences about the suburbanization of poverty in the United States. I was hosted by colleagues at the Smith Institute, who have studied this similar phenomenon in major English and Welsh regions.

The Smith Institute’s research shows that, as in the United States, most low-income people in England and Wales (57 percent) live in suburban areas. Poverty is defined differently in the UK, as are “suburbs,” (see the slides below) but some of the challenges facing poor individuals in UK suburbs–more limited access to transit, services, and jobs–mirror those facing their counterparts in America.

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Behind the “Poor Door” Controversy: Inclusionary Zoning Policies in Cities and Suburbs

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Barbara Ray

Affordable housing is in the news these days as New York City makes headlines for its efforts to build more housing at affordable rents. Whether it’s the “poor door” controversy or the de Blasio administration’s push to mandate developers to include affordable units in every development, a widespread and growing problem is coming into focus.

The “poor door” has set off a wave of criticism because the affordable units are in a separate section from the rest of the luxury high-rise, and low-income residents must enter through a separate door. They also do not have equal access to the building amenities. The reason for the separate entrance, developers argue, is cost.

As the president of the development company told the New York Times, having the affordable apartments incorporated into the condominium tower would have meant “giving away” the most valuable units.

“We wouldn’t be able to do affordable,” he said. “It wouldn’t make any financial sense.” Read More


Learn about suburban poverty in your community, how innovators around the country are addressing it, and what you can do locally and nationally to take action.