Author: Principal Investigator, Dr. Brittany Lewis, Senior Research Associate
Contributing Authors: Marci Exsted, Adam Le, Kyle Malone, Jeff Matson, and Justin Baker
Brooklyn Center, Minnesota is a growing community and one of the most diverse suburbs in the Twin Cities metro area. Like many growing metropolitan locales, they face the challenge of providing current and future residents with stable, accessible housing options, while actively addressing issues of growing gentrification and affordability concerns. To help address these emerging issues, the city reached out to the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) to design a study that would aid their urban planning efforts and begin to head off current and future housing concerns.
Brooklyn Center initially partnered with CURA in 2020 to collect qualitative and quantitative data to provide a comprehensive picture of current housing conditions, affordability, resident experiences, preferences, and housing needs in the city and to provide tangible policy and practice recommendations that welcome new investment in the community while mitigating the negative impacts of gentrification. In 2021 CURA was contracted by the City of Brooklyn Center to continue this partnership by conducting rigorous investigation into the upstream causes and downstream effects of gentrification on the city. CURA conducted an intensive mixed-methods analysis of the housing conditions prevalent throughout Brooklyn Center. In the qualitative analysis, the focus was to gain insight into the experiences of renters, homeowners, and landlords in Brooklyn Center. The second phase of the quantitative analysis built upon the data demonstrated in the first phase, which identified gaps in affordability along with racial disparities in incomes and key housing outcomes.
The decision-making body that formed the backbone of the analysis was an advisory council composed of a wide variety of Brooklyn Center stakeholders, which included residents, landowners, members of government, and members of various community organizations who do community-engagement work in Brooklyn Center. Over a series of seven meetings, and with the help of CURA staff and researchers, the advisory council established four guiding principles to lead the qualitative research. The guiding principles began as core values in small groups before being synthesized into the four categories of livability, affordability, accessibility, and safety. After these categories were determined, the advisory council sought to engage with multiple stakeholders in the city to understand the phenomenon of gentrification. Ultimately, a survey and focus groups were chosen as the methods of qualitative analysis to complement the quantitative analyses.
Livability: In terms of the home: Is the structure comfortable? Is there access to fresh air and good sanitation? In the neighborhood: How safe is it? How accessible is it? Are there social amenities? Are there outdoor spaces? Is there access to schools? Looking into the future: Is it possible to live comfortably? What's the tenable condition to live there in the future? Ultimately, both the natural and built environments are equally important to determine livability.
Affordability: “Affordable” housing is something that is different for everyone since it depends upon a person’s income. We view it as “what’s left over” after spending money on housing. Is there “enough” left over for other things like food, transportation, childcare, etc.? Those elements dictate what is “affordable” for any particular individual, household, or family.
Accessibility: Knowledge of available rental or homeownership options. The ability to utilize financial literacy and housing programs to access either option. Being able to find affordable, accessible (regardless of physical abilities), and functional housing when it is needed. Housing access is the ability for a household to find, obtain, and retain housing that is affordable to them.
Safety: Feeling safe and comfortable living in a place without fear of being a victim of crime or bullying. Having trust that the resources and strategies used to provide a safe community are responsive to the community’s needs.