Shelter beds are not affordable housing

I was elected mayor by vowing to change the way we do business here in City Hall. A big part of that was making city government more transparent and providing citizens with more information and access to both the mayor and the rest of city government.

One strategy has been to publicly chart our progress on affordable housing on an affordable housing thermometer, posted on the city's Web site (

Minneapolis has pledged to build or renovate 2,100 affordable units by the end of 2005. The Southwest Journal (Dec. 4-17) highlighted that a number of units the city completed at the end of the third quarter in 2003 were shelter beds.

Including shelter in aggregate affordable housing numbers had been the practice of the city for a number of years. While 320 of the 4,300 housing units that have been competed or are currently under construction with city assistance are shelter beds, the story highlighted the need for us to look at our counting methods. As soon as this issue came to my attention, we began working to change it. While the city has an important role to play in funding shelter, it is clear that shelter is not housing, and it should not be counted in this way.

My office worked with Community Planning and Economic Development Department staff and consulted with our Community Advisory Board on Homelessness regarding how the city should count these units. As a result, the city of Minneapolis is changing the way we do business and will no longer count shelter beds towards our affordable housing goal.

I'm proud of our record on affordable housing and that, despite financial challenges, the city is honoring our commitment to increase funding for and production of affordable housing. The city of Minneapolis has assisted in the construction and rehabilitation of over 4,000 units (not including shelter beds) completed in 2003 or currently under construction. Over 1,800 of these are affordable to families or individuals making less than 50 percent of the Metropolitan Median Income (MMI), and over 1,400 of these are affordable to households making less than 30 percent of MMI.

Changing the way we count makes sense and is the right thing to do. It is only by us all working together that we can ensure that Minneapolis is a great city for all future generations.

R.T. Rybak is mayor of Minneapolis.