Brooklyn Center Housing Report


Author: Principal Investigator, Dr. Brittany Lewis, Senior Research Associate

Contributing Authors: Marci Exsted, Adam Le, Kyle Malone, Jeff Matson, and Justin Baker

Background and Introduction

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, affordable 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. The first phase of the quantitative study was designed to provide key maps and statistics on the state of Brooklyn Center’s housing stock, including age and the distribution of rental units, along with gaps in affordability. Other identified areas of analysis included racial disparities in incomes and homeownership and identification of patterns of gentrification and neighborhood change. These results informed the subsequent research and recommendations on promoting accessible housing in Brooklyn Center as detailed in this report.

In Spring, Summer, and Fall of 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[1]. 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. In each meeting, participants set the agenda for CURA’s methodological and analytical focus. Breakout groups were created so that smaller groups of individuals could share in closed groups before reporting to the entire advisory council. The guiding principles began as core values in small groups before being synthesized into the four categories of affordability, livability, accessibility, and safety. Definitions from the advisory council are provided below:


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.

After those definitions 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 in the other section of this report. The following sections of the report highlight the reason for these methods, the methods themselves, and the analysis of the findings under each guiding principle. These findings should be taken into account when considering the multiple stakeholders in Brooklyn Center as the city moves toward future redevelopment and ultimately asks for whom they are developing.

CURA has included actionable recommendations at the end of this report to address the data gathered on each guiding principle in order to support responsive future development. Livability recommendations focused on addressing the disconnect in the reporting by landlords and tenants on maintenance and oversight of housing conditions. Affordability recommendations are focused on the tension in the cost-burden of current and rising rent costs for tenants and the difficulty of maintaining affordable units as reported by landlords. Recommendations addressing accessibility centered on keeping the city walkable, with resources and amenities within range of residents. Additional attention was given to the accessibility of living-wage jobs that match the skills and training of the city’s current residents. Finally, safety recommendations responded to a reported feeling of lack of safety and the range of ways to address this identified by different stakeholders.

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Brooklyn Center & Underlying Housing Concerns

To develop a more comprehensive understanding of Brooklyn Center and its housing issues, CURA began by understanding the city itself and investigating the quantitative questions raised at the beginning of the partnership. We sought foundational data about the city’s housing concerns, focusing on the composition of housing stock, rental unit ages and distribution, affordability or lack thereof, including a critical analysis of racial disparities across these dimensions. There were clear disparities and gaps found in each of these areas, particularly affordability and ownership across racialized categories. These findings ultimately helped inform the mixed-methods analysis that followed and form the larger context for the report.


Brooklyn Center is a city of nearly 31,000 residents living in 10,400 households. It is one of the most diverse communities in the entire Twin Cities metro. Only about 38 percent of its population identifies as non-Hispanic white, compared to 69 percent of Hennepin County residents. Conversely, 29 percent of the city’s inhabitants identify as Black or African American and nearly 16 percent as Asian, both of which are more than double the county averages (Table 1). Among Twin Cities suburbs, Brooklyn Park is the only other city where at least half of the residents identify as non-white.

Among 34 suburbs in the Twin Cities metro, Brooklyn Center ranks near the bottom of median household incomes, both overall – about $60,000 per year—and among renters—about $33,000 per year. Meanwhile, because median gross rent is near the middle of the pack at $1,083 per month, a large share of Brooklyn Center renters—who comprise 39 percent of the city’s households—are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing. The percentage of cost-burdened households by tenure in Brooklyn Center and Hennepin County is presented in Figure 1. Additional comparison charts and tables can be found in Appendices 3 and 4.


Figure 1. Percentage of Renters and Owners Cost-Burdened

Figure 1. Percentage of Renters and Owners Cost-Burdened


Like many other communities, there are significant disparities along racial lines. Households headed by non-Hispanic whites earn significantly more than African American or Hispanic households—just under $60,000 compared to $36,000 and $46,000, respectively. Asian-headed households have the highest median income at slightly less than $75,000. Yet despite earning more than non-Hispanic whites by a significant margin, an equal proportion of Asian-headed households own their homes, about 79-80 percent. Other demographic groups are disproportionately renters. More than half of Hispanic-headed households and nearly three-quarters of African-American households must hand over money to a landlord each month (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2. Percentage of Renters and Owners by Race of Householder


Trends in Incomes and Housing Costs

Income for both renters and owners has not kept pace with housing costs, although the problem is more acute for renters. Figure 3 shows how incomes and housing costs have changed relative to the year 2000 in 2019 inflation-adjusted dollars. By 2019, the median income for renter households had fallen by 18 percent, from $40,421 to $33,217. Over that same span, median rents increased by 14 percent, rising from $947 to $1,083. The divergence between owner incomes and home prices, while not nearly as dramatic, was still notable. Incomes fell seven percent while the median home value rose 11 percent between 2000 and 2019.

Income growth has also lagged behind most other Twin Cities suburbs. The city’s overall median income fell by ten percent in inflation-adjusted terms between 2000 and 2019, the ninth-worst performance among 34 included suburbs (Figure 4).

Figure 3. Change in Incomes and Housing Costs Since 2000

Figure 3. Change in Incomes and Housing Costs Since 2000


Figure 4. Median Income Among 34 included Twin Cities Suburbs, 2000-2019

Figure 4. Median Income Among 34 included Twin Cities Suburbs, 2000-2019


A closer look at year-by-year changes in asking rents in Figure 5 reveals that rents were falling or stagnant until 2014, after which they began a precipitous upward climb.[2] In the span of five years, the median asking rent rose nearly 14 percent, from $963 to $1,094. This trend holds for one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, which can be seen in Figure 6. The exception is for studio apartments, where rents rose in tandem with the other units until 2017, when they fell by $127, or 14 percent, compared to 2016. The reason for this sudden drop is not clear, but it may be tied to the completion of The Sanctuary at Brooklyn Center, a 158-unit affordable housing development.

Figure 5. Median Asking Rent, 2000-2020

Figure 5. Median Asking Rent, 2000-2020


Figure 6. Median Asking Rent by Number of Bedrooms, 2011-2019

Figure 6. Median Asking Rent by Number of Bedrooms, 2011-2019


However, renters are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Home prices have increased even more rapidly since the housing crash. In Brooklyn Center, the median sale price for a home doubled between 2011 and 2019, jumping from just under $110,000 to $220,000 in real terms. Renters thus have greater difficulty becoming homeowners and building wealth while current owners benefit from appreciation in home values, potentially widening the wealth gap.

Housing Stock


The city has an estimated 11,295 housing units, approximately 38 percent of which, about 4,300 units, are licensed rentals. Of the nearly 7,000 owner-occupied units, 90 percent are detached single-family homes. The distribution of residential buildings in the city is displayed in Figure 7, with tenure shown in Figure 8. Many of those buildings are aging: more than 90 percent of the residential units in the city were built more than 40 years ago, compared to just two percent constructed after 2000. Owner-occupied units skew older, with nearly two-thirds built prior to 1960, while three-quarters of renter-occupied housing was built in the 1960s and 1970s. The distribution of buildings by age is displayed in Figures 9 and 10.

Figure 7. Map of Land Uses in Brooklyn Center

Figure 7. Map of Land Uses in Brooklyn Center


Figure 8. Map of Housing in Brooklyn Center by Tenure

Figure 8. Map of Housing in Brooklyn Center by Tenure


Figure 9. Map of Housing in Brooklyn Center by Year Built

Figure 9. Map of Housing in Brooklyn Center by Year Built


Figure 10. Age of Brooklyn Center Housing

Figure 10. Age of Brooklyn Center Housing


These findings present a complex picture of the housing challenges Brooklyn Center residents face. Given the convergence of stagnating incomes and rising rents, it is no surprise that affordability and gentrification have become pressing concerns. Black and Latinx households in particular struggle to achieve homeownership, the primary wealth-building tool for families in the U.S., instead remaining caught in a rental market that fails to provide affordable options for households at the bottom of the income ladder. 


Once this foundational data was established, at the request of the City of Brooklyn Center and the advisory council, CURA dug into these issues further. Working from this initial data dive, we determined that there was more demographic and market information needed, as well as direct input from individuals who rent and own in Brooklyn Center. These analyses form our mixed-methods study, which we lay out in the rest of this report. Detailed descriptions of the methods used to collect data are provided below, with findings in the following section.

Quantitative Methods

The quantitative analysis utilized a variety of public and proprietary data sources. Demographic statistics, including rates of home ownership and cost-burdened households, came from the Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey. Annual Hennepin County parcel data provided information on housing stock characteristics, including age and building type (e.g., single-family, duplex, etc.); this was supplemented with rental license data from Brooklyn Center. Data on subsidized housing came from the HousingLink Streams website, while rent for market-rate buildings with four or more units was provided by the Minnesota Housing Partnership through a license with CoStar, a private real estate analytics firm. The number and location of eviction filings from 2011 to the present were downloaded from the Court Services Division of the Minnesota Judicial Branch.

Qualitative Methods

Surveys and focus groups are central pieces of empirical research. Surveys give a wide perspective of a particular subset of a population. The strength of survey instruments is that they can reveal how a sample of the population feels about a wide variety of topics. In the case of this study, we were interested in how a wide range of respondents felt about how livable, affordable, accessible, and safe they rate the city of Brooklyn Center. Survey instruments allowed us to come into contact with hundreds of people who hold a stake in Brooklyn Center, a number which interviews or focus groups cannot reach effectively. Running a survey instrument also allowed researchers to get a wider spread of respondents across the city.

The City of Brooklyn Center, along with CURA, distributed this survey as part of a research study to identify measures that can be tracked to mitigate gentrification pressures, ensuring that all current and future residents who desire to live in the city are enabled to do so. Central to this study were the opinions of Brooklyn Center residents. However, most survey research, especially those that wish to capture (often binary) variables such as race or gender, make assumptions of these categories being “immutable characteristics” and not a “bundle of sticks” (Sen and Wasow 2016). What this means is that there is no real room to analyze the complexities of identity and the depth of peoples’ experiences. On the other hand, survey research does a good job in providing a thermometer of what issues are salient in the community and what issues are often overlooked.

Interviews and focus groups are the methods for analyzing the depth to which a phenomenon affects individuals. Interviews and focus groups have an advantage over surveys in that they record more fully how subjects arrive at their opinions. While we [as researchers] cannot actually observe the underlying mental process that gives rise to their responses, we can witness many of its outward manifestations. The way subjects ramble, hesitate, stumble, and meander as they formulate their answers tips us off to how they are thinking and reasoning through political issues (Chong 1993, p. 868).

Moreover, focus groups have other advantages in obtaining rich data. While surveys on the one hand “ask respondents to evaluate institutions with which they have little to no experiences or direct basis for evaluation,” focus groups are able to observe “the range of perspectives about a topic expressed in people’s own words” and among their peers, which “enable conversations to arise among participants” and “de-center the researchers’ interventions” (Hilbink, Salas, Gallagher, and Restrepo Sanín 2021, p. 11). Thus, we found this combination of fielding a survey and conducting focus groups to be the most effective form of qualitative analysis to understand the different experiences had by Brooklyn Center landlords and residents. We were able to get both “breadth” (a wide range of opinions across a large population sample size in the survey) and “depth” (a deep understanding of the lived experiences of individual participants), which is the most empirically thorough qualitative investigation that could be conducted.


The survey was available for participants from May 10-May 31, 2021 (see Appendix 1.1 for a copy of the flier that was distributed as recruitment material and Appendix 2 for the survey question wording). The survey was hosted on Qualtrics.​​ Qualtrics is a tool available to University of Minnesota researchers to create and conduct online surveys.[3] The survey cleaning was done through a combination of GIS, Excel, and R and the data analysis was done in R. R is a software for statistical computing and data analysis.[4] The first one hundred respondents from Brooklyn Center were able to submit their email address in order to receive a $25 Visa gift card in return for completing the survey.

By the end of the time slot, we received over 5,000 replies (N=5721). Many of these responses were not from Brooklyn Center residents and this was possible to tell through many different ways. Although the flier that was circulated in Brooklyn Center, thousands of respondents across the world ended up taking the survey. This can happen with online surveys and we were still able to calculate which respondents were residents of Brooklyn Center. Since we were interested in current Brooklyn Center residents only, we needed to clean the data in order to accurately capture the sentiment and public opinion of Brooklyn Center residents who responded to the survey. After eliminating people who did not consent to the survey, we utilized the randomized latitude and longitude coordinates provided by Qualtrics to get a city-level view of where people have taken the survey.[5] We combined these coordinates with street names that we knew were in Brooklyn Center to get a robust estimate of which of the respondents were living in Brooklyn Center versus outside of Brooklyn Center. We also had a question asking respondents for their address. While all Brooklyn Center respondents did not supply their address, the combination of addresses and longitudinal data obtained from Qualtrics gave us a confident measure of who took the survey in Brooklyn Center, and who was not in Brooklyn Center.

After establishing a robust measure to assess the area, we combed through the data for duplicates and non-responses or responses with unintelligible data throughout the responses (e.g., ghghgh, sequences of numbers that did not make sense but completed the survey, etc.). The responses outside of the city and duplicates/non-responses are common in survey research where rewards are given; in this case, the gift card made the survey participation enticing for people who did not live in Brooklyn Center. However, we were able to narrow down the respondents and distribute the gift cards accordingly. We were left with 410 respondents who we were confident lived in Brooklyn Center. However, in some of the surveys we only had demographic information, so those were excluded. We were left with 373 completed surveys in Brooklyn Center. Again, we focused on current residents directly within the city of Brooklyn Center, as we were not able to discern between former residents, people who lived in other suburbs and felt impacted, people with family members in Brooklyn Center, but did not live in Brooklyn Center themselves, and so on. Figure 11shows a representation of survey respondents in Brooklyn Center versus outside Brooklyn Center.

Figure 11. Representative Survey Respondents, by Geographical Distinction

Figure 11. Representative Survey Respondents, by Geographical Distinction


Of the 373 respondents in Brooklyn Center, four identified as Indigenous, six as Asian, 42 as Black, 11 as Latinx, 11 as Mixed, one as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 206 as white, and 92 others who included other responses, such as their nationality, no response, or responses to other parts of the survey (e.g., age, email, etc.). We have some “other” replies that we did not feel confident in generalizing to a particular race, such as nationality, so these reasons account for the large number of “other” respondents. In the final sample, we had 137 renters and 236 homeowners. The gender breakdown was also fairly split down the middle, with slightly more women respondents. Figure 12 shows the race breakdown of the respondents who were Brooklyn Center residents, and Figure 13 shows the gender breakdown of the respondents in our final sample. Figure 14 shows the race breakdown of the respondents in the homeowner and renter categories.

Figure 12. Breakdown of Race, All Brooklyn Center Respondents

Figure 12. Breakdown of Race, All Brooklyn Center Respondents


Figure 13. Breakdown of Gender, All Brooklyn Center Respondents 

Figure 13. Breakdown of Gender, All Brooklyn Center Respondents


Figure 14. Breakdown of Race, All Brooklyn Center Renters and Homeowners

Figure 14. Breakdown of Race, All Brooklyn Center Renters and Homeowners-1
Figure 14. Breakdown of Race, All Brooklyn Center Renters and Homeowners-2


We also subset the data by racial category and by homeowners and renters to gain more in-depth insight into each racial group’s experience in Brooklyn Center. Ultimately we decided that the data in its entirety was more useful to show how respondents felt about the larger themes presented by the advisory council. The end of the survey also contained open-ended questions on gender and race that were recoded into the racial and gender categories above. It is important to note that in gender, we did not receive any responses that were not male/female, such as trans or non-binary.

What we found throughout our survey analysis was a lack of representation in BIPOC voices. Table 2 shows these differences in our survey respondents versus the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) data. We also did not effectively capture the experiences of renters and landlords within the city of Brooklyn Center. These pitfalls are expected when dealing with a convenience sample: certain categories, in this case white people, were overrepresented in the survey responses. To fill this gap we also conducted focus groups with Hmong homeowners and renters, Latinx homeowners and renters, Black (and specifically West African[6]) renters, and landlords from different backgrounds and differing levels of scale (e.g., a few homes, multiple properties, multiple properties in different cities, etc.). Significantly overrepresented categories are highlighted in light blue, while significantly underrepresented categories are highlighted in orange.

Focus Groups

We took many of the findings from the survey and the lack of representation from certain groups into account when we moved onto conducting the focus groups. We conducted focus groups over four days and ended up having a total of seven groups. The Southeast Asian and Latinx groups were composed of both homeowners and renters. The Black/West African focus group was solely renters. Landlords could have properties in multiple cities, but they needed to be property owners or landlords in Brooklyn Center in order to be a part of the focus group. Landlords ranged from renting out single-family units to having multiple-unit townhomes and buildings. We found that this variation in landlords provided rich data collection in terms of seeing what landlords felt across different ownership sizes, and thus we mixed the focus groups with small-scale and larger-scale landlords in the multiple landlord focus groups.

The composition of the focus groups were deliberately created to fill in the gaps that were present in the survey (see Table 1). As such, we interviewed ten landlords in three separate groups, eight Southeast Asian residents, two Latinx residents, and four West African/Black residents. Participants were given a $50 Visa gift card for participation, and we partnered with community-based organizations to recruit participants. Representatives from community-based organizations were given $25 for each person they recruited for an interview. A recruitment flier was distributed in both English and Spanish. The recruitment flyers for participants are available in Appendix 1.2.

Interviews averaged an hour long and were conducted both in the afternoon and at night to account for participants’ schedules. Interviews were conducted by CURA staff and translators were present when necessary, which included Hmong and Spanish translation. The participants consented to have the focus groups recorded, which the researchers acknowledge may skew the data that is collected due to social desirability. We believe that the benefits of rich data analysis of the transcripts verbatim outweighed the risks involved in people not giving truthful answers. We also found that many answers were in-depth accounts that did not seem to be biased by the focus group setting, the online format, or by being recorded.[7] Transcripts were open-coded and then closed-coded. All data analysis was done in NVivo 12 and presented to the advisory council in a PowerPoint.

Findings: Livability


The data analysis can be broken down into the four main themes of this research project: livability, affordability, accessibility, and safety. These themes were developed with the Brooklyn Center advisory council, which was composed of different advocacy organizations and property management companies. Definitions for each term as provided by the advisory council are provided in the introduction of this report and summarized in each subcategory. Across all four themes, we combine data gathered from the surveys completed by people living in Brooklyn Center, our focus groups consisting of individuals renting and owning in the city, and the continuation of the quantitative dive initially prompted by this partnership. The structure of all categories similarly mirrors that order, with framing from summarized survey results, detailed quotes from focus group participants to provide first-hand accounts of community perspectives, and then supplemented with relevant quantitative data to provide a more holistic picture of each aspect.

In each category, evaluations of respondents from the survey were categorized into positive, neutral, and negative responses. We asked respondents to rate their opinion on how livable, affordable, safe, and affordable Brooklyn Center was on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the most negative rating and 10 being the most positive rating. Scores from 0 to 4 were rated as negative, scores of 5 and 6 were neutral, and scores from 7 to 10 were positive. Focus group responses were also categorized by themes and sub-themes. Survey results provided scaffolding for the concerns that were top-of-mind of those who live in and plan for Brooklyn Center. Detailed quotes from the focus groups follow each of the survey summations, highlighting the lived experiences of individuals living and doing business in the city. This section also includes additional quantitative findings, also organized by theme, which fill in the gaps from each category.




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.

When respondents were asked how livable Brooklyn Center was on a scale of 1-10, 85 respondents gave a negative evaluation, 139 respondents gave a neutral evaluation, and 147 respondents gave a positive evaluation of livability in Brooklyn Center. Figure 15 shows responses for how livable people think Brooklyn Center is, while Figures 16 and 17 show evaluations of housing in total as well as between renters and homeowners. In this response, respondents were told to rate their housing as poor, fair, good, or excellent.

Figure 15. Survey Responses to “How Livable is Brooklyn Center?”

Figure 15. Survey Responses to “How Livable is Brooklyn Center?”


Figure 16. Survey Responses Evaluating Housing, All Respondents and Renters/Owners

Figure 16. Survey Responses Evaluating Housing, All Respondents and Renters/Owners


Figure 17. Survey Responses Evaluating Housing, Renters/Owners

Figure 17. Survey Responses Evaluating Housing, Renters/Owners


A significant number of both renters and homeowners discussed the condition of their housing, with 130 homeowners in the survey talking positively about their housing condition and 17 renters talking negatively about their housing condition. These responses were open-coded as positive or negative based on the substance of the message. Oftentimes some open-ended responses simply stated that the housing was good. An example of a negative response is a renter stating that their “roof is leaking, many of the appliances are not working, [and there are] cockroaches in the building.” Other main themes that came out of livability when we asked about peoples’ housing quality were negative views about property taxes reported by six homeowners, four negative evaluations of water quality among both renters and homeowners, and four negative assessments of landlords and property managers among renters. In terms of what attracted our respondents most to Brooklyn Center, 132 homeowners and 76 renters cited proximity to work (for a total of 208), 113 homeowners and 64 renters (177 total) reported a proximity to family, and 102 homeowners and 52 renters (154 total) reported housing options.

In the focus groups we found a discrepancy between landlords/property managers and tenants. Landlords and property managers reported covering maintenance within a timely and reasonable manner to maintain their properties, while tenants in our focus groups have not had timely responses to their maintenance requests. “We have somebody who’s on call 24 hours a day for emergency issues and those are responded to within 60 minutes,” a property owner recalls about their unit. Other landlords agreed on the quick responsiveness and the extent to which reasonable maintenance is covered by the landlord. Renters, on the other hand, found that “maintenance work is not done on time” and reported waiting months before anything was fixed. Renters resorted to calling the city to have inspectors (who they see as “the city”) force landlords to make fixes, which often happened after receiving a letter from the city. Tenants across all of our focus groups also reported having to do work on their own, which included scrubbing and cleaning the building after the previous renters and maintaining units that were “already in pretty bad shape.” This relates to another big theme we found from renters in Brooklyn Center: the buildings and utilities were reported to be very out-of-date. Hard water, cracking foundations, and old carpets were some of the main concerns that renters had in their units. In particular, many renters found that old carpets were frustrating because landlords and property owners had no enforcement in replacing or maintaining carpets for years and decades.

            This finding of maintenance concerns leads to the second main theme with respect to livability: inspections. Landlords across all of our focus groups were extremely frustrated with the inspections process and the rules and regulations of the city of Brooklyn Center. Landlords reported that Brooklyn Center was “by far…the hardest city to pass an inspection” and the hardest city to get through licensing inspections. Landlords also lamented about the short and reportedly unreasonable turnaround time with the city requiring a fix within one week for a fence. Landlords and property owners found the inspections process to be an important piece to ensure the livability of units; however, in practice and through observing the focus groups, landlords and property managers seemed to abhor the inspections process and standards.[8]

Tenants, on the other hand, felt like not enough was being done in inspections. When contemplating on what can be done to improve livability, an West African participant recalled: 

I think a city inspection. The city inspectors, I blame them for most of the problem, because they come, they see the problem. They do nothing. It’s either they know the management and they don’t know the renters. So they approve them and they keep it moving when they need to fail them on what they’re not doing. So that was one of the problems we were trying to find the last time we met was why our city inspector giving people clean bill of health, management company clean bill of health, when they can literally come into an apartment and see the things that are not working, see the things that’s not functioning…I think the last time somebody said they wanted proof that there was a rodent in your house, I think you’re supposed to catch it and then keep it there until they come to evaluate. So I blame the inspectors, because I think that’s where the city can make a difference.

This response is insightful in many ways. While city inspectors and inspections were seen to be a key piece, the enforcement of rules and regulations was not consistent. This led renters to believe that the inspections process was mostly a façade where property managers and landlords maintained the units solely for the inspection. This respondent found extreme distress in the burden of proof for vermin and found the city partly to be blamed for the lack of livable units due to the inspections process. In sum, the renters and landlords were both frustrated with inspections, but in distinctly opposite ways. The quotes on maintenance and inspections are included in Table 3.

Table 3: Focus Group Responses - Livability

Maintenance - Tenants
“So if I’m paying two mortgages, I’m sure plenty other tenants are as well. So where is the money going? I think that was [respondent], or [respondent] stated. There’s no improvement. Every year, you increase my rent, but I don’t get a new set of cabinets, or a ceiling fan, or new carpet. When I moved in my unit, it looked like First 48 apartment was here. Like, what happened? It was dead bodies all in the carpets, you know. And I'm getting ready to give you a whole mortgage. You can’t give me a new carpet?” (African American Renter).
“And the trash. I don’t know what’s going on in the city with the trash, but since the protests as well, their complaint is that they’re scared to come over this area, but the protest is normally at night. So why aren’t you taking the trash? And we pay for trash. And we can’t recycle, that’s the other thing. They don’t provide any means for us to recycle anymore.” (African AmericanRenter).
“I don’t know why there is just so much trash. It seems like even when the trash is picked up one day, there is still a pile. There’s so much more trash that is still in the complex. And I’m thinking that might be part of the reasons for the infestation. It’s just so much trash that’s out there that’s not being picked up.” (West African Renter).
“The carpet in our place has been bad since we moved here. And when I move, I think I spoke to the lady about changing the carpet. And she said yes, and that hasn’t happened yet.” (West African Renter).
“They said, well, it has a [inaudible 00:35:25]. It has to be maybe [inaudible 00:35:27]. It has to be something, and we can make them to change. I said, what about when it’s dirty and smelly? What about when it has 10, 15 years on the ground? They said, no, that’s not an excuse.” (West African Renter).
“I would say renting in Brooklyn Center is pretty bad. Maintenance wise, I have to do mostly everything myself and it’s just the house itself when I moved in was already in pretty bad shape.” (Hmong Renter).
“If I tell them something, they’ll wait it out two, three months down the road and it’s something that I need right away or something like that.” (Hmong Renter).
Maintenance - Landlords
“We try to do maintenance on us, unless it’s damage that we can definitely say that they did, which I want to say almost never happens unless it’s a person that’s not paying and obviously stops caring about anything in the relationship, like every relationship. I never put it on the tenants, it’s part of what I budget for, it’s how I calculate my ability to have a performing unit. I think it’s on the owner to make sure they have a workable unit. I asked my tenants to add home service plus to ensure all of the appliances. So they get services. We try to have a washer and dryer unit in there. And so, we do try to give them more than what’s required by law, but we also ask them to have maintenance on it. So, that's how I try to keep it. But other than that, like leaks and stuff like that, we try to clean it before inspections, I let them know if anything’s wrong, I’ll come out and fix it before the inspection. We definitely try to make sure the unit is working and that they don’t have issues. And I even get called on flickering fluorescent lights that they don’t know how to replace and we try to work with them.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I mean, if it’s routine maintenance, it gets fixed. A tenant broke it and it’s obvious or they say, “Hey, my toilet won’t flush.” And go down there and there’s five diapers down there, they pay for it. I mean, we try to be realistic about it.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“We don’t have maintenance fees and in our company, I mean, if someone breaks something... I know let’s say someone calls and their toilets plugged and maintenance goes up there and they have to pull it and then they find a toy in there. Okay. We’re not going to charge them for that the first time. But the second time, if that toilet has to be replaced or we have to snake, we could charge them. What we do also when they... we have a resident handbook when people move in, we go through it with them. It talks about certainly what a maintenance emergency is, how to take care of your apartment. We also have a monthly newsletter where maintenance always has an article and they’ll take a common thing that’s been happening, like maybe it’s calls on garbage disposals or something. And so we try to educate people that way too, but we don’t have maintenance fees. And our protocol is 24 hour response, if not less, to a maintenance request.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“We have somebody who’s on call 24 hours a day for emergency issues and those are responded to within 60 minutes. We don’t have a general kind of blanket policy to charge people, and we don’t generally charge for maintenance issues, kind of similar, unless it’s intentional damage. Yes. If you punched a hole through your door, we’re going to charge you for a door. But we also understand the age of our buildings. They were built in the 60s, things break, things happen, and that is part of the responsibility of being a property owner is those things are going to need to be replaced. Kind of my philosophy, I own a home and if it’s something that I would have to replace in my home due to normal wear and tear, then that's kind of the compass that I use as far as whether we should charge somebody for it. Is their appliance broke because they stepped on it and crack the glass? Or the appliance broke because it’s old? That's kind of where we go with that.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
Living Conditions
“For me, the safety is okay. As my friends are saying, it’s okay. But the living condition is not.” (West African Renter).
“If I’m paying you money, stability comes in that as well. If you tell me that you want me to pay you a certain amount of money for certain amenities and shelter that you're going to provide, you should do that. You should be providing it. But what I see, the foundation in the building is cracking.” (African American Renter).
“And then when you go and complain, that’s a safety issue because of the rodents” (African American Renter).
“It was at one point moderately, with the grass and stuff. But since the protests happened, and we got this new property manger, our grass was like hay and Cabrini-Green mixed together. If you know what Cabrini-Green used to look like. Okay, Minnesota doesn’t have projects here like that where they don’t have grass. That’s where we're almost down to, and it’s really out of hand.” (African American Renter).
“I noticed that the City of Brooklyn Center water systems or waterways is really hard. It's not like any other city. So, we had to buy one of those water softener to soften the water in order for us to use.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“And we don’t see new developments. We don’t see new community being built. We don’t see there being renovations” (West African Renter).
“So even when you’re here, when you’re talking with [inaudible 00:30:57], they’re listening, but they’re going to take it. And that’s the person I want to blame, too, would be my management here at [inaudible 00:31:13] and get the approval. Then when things go all wrong, I will see. And when you call them, they won’t come. But before they come, they will come in and do an inspection. They want to see the fire, they want to see the kitchen sink. They want to see this and see that. They will come. But as for getting the approval when you call them, forget it. Don’t call.” (West African Renter).
“One time I had a door that it was broken, and it took him three months of trying to get it repaired until I finally decided to call the city. And as soon as they got the letter for the city, immediately the door was fixed.” (Latinx Renter).


One notable absence in conversations with both renters and landlords is the subject of evictions. This is particularly surprising given Brooklyn Center’s elevated eviction rate relative to Hennepin County as a whole: between 2011 and 2019 the rate of eviction filings in the city was on average 1.8 percentage points above the county-wide rate (Figure 18). The rate of filings ending in an eviction judgment also exceeded the county-wide rate every year over that span, as shown in Figure 19. In more tangible terms, the 594 total judgments—assuming each judgment is for a unique household—means that at least 16 percent of all renters were evicted from their homes over those nine years[9]. This of course excludes all “informal” evictions, including those that were never filed in court and agreements between tenants and landlords to vacate a home during the proceedings but prior to an official judgment.

Figured 18. Evictions Filing in Brooklyn Center, Hennepin County 2011-2019

Figured 18. Evictions Filing in Brooklyn Center, Hennepin County 2011-2019


Figured 19. Eviction Filing Convictions, Brooklyn Center, Hennepin County 2011-2019

Figured 19. Eviction Filing Convictions, Brooklyn Center, Hennepin County 2011-2019


The quantitative team also wanted to determine whether there was a connection between neighborhood change and evictions. Social researchers have suggested that landlords in gentrifying neighborhoods may trigger displacement by increasing rents or issuing no-cause evictions to make room for more affluent tenants who pay higher rents. Could this be true in Brooklyn Center? While a rigorous statistical analysis is beyond the scope of this report, the data do allow for a few observations.

The city’s sole tract exhibiting signs of gentrification hosted 365 eviction filings, or about 22 percent of the city’s total.[10] However, this tract also has the second-largest number of renter households, making the average eviction rate 5.0 percent of households per year, which is fourth-highest among the eight tracts. The four vulnerable tracts witnessed 1,046 eviction filings, 62 percent of the total, and collectively had an average annual eviction rate of 4.4 percent. Table 4 presents the number of eviction filings and the average annual eviction rate for each of Brooklyn Center’s eight census tracts, which are mapped in Figure 20.

Figure 20. Map of Brooklyn Center’s Census Tracts

Figure 20. Map of Brooklyn Center’s Census Tracts

Findings: Affordability


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.

When it comes to affordability, 94 respondents felt that Brooklyn Center was not affordable, 133 were ambivalent or neutral, and 146 respondents felt positively towards affordability in the city. Figure 21 shows the responses by category.

Figure 21. Survey Responses to “How Affordable is Brooklyn Center?”

Figure 21. Survey Responses to “How Affordable is Brooklyn Center?”


In terms of important deciding factors in moving to Brooklyn Center, respondents cited price as a main motivating factor (162 homeowners and 74 renters, for a total of 236) as well as proximity to work (131 homeowners and 72 renters, for a total of 203). Respondents in Brooklyn Center found price to be important but that Brooklyn Center was too expensive to live in, highlighting the lack of affordability in the city. Other important factors included the size of the unit (125 homeowners and 53 renters, for a total of 178) and the proximity to their families (110 homeowners and 61 renters, for a total of 171). A renter stated that Brooklyn Center “is within my income range, [but] sometimes I struggle to pay my bills.” This quote highlights the importance of price and the overall cost burden that renters face in the city.

In the focus groups, landlords and renters again had differing views on the role of affordability. Landlords in our focus groups blamed the government for the lack of affordability in the city of Brooklyn Center. One respondent remarked, “I think affordability is going out the window with how the government played with our money the last two years.” Another respondent advocated for the need to increase rent, saying that “taxes go up every year, so you have to put in your agreement that there will be a rent increase.” These hardships in affordability on the landlord side made affordability difficult to achieve, and for one respondent they felt like affordability was an impossible goal and they were not making a lot of money, leading them to assert that they were “doing [affordable housing] for the community.” Again, landlords and property owners found their grievances to be with the city and how the city handled funds, taxes, and redistribution.

Renters, on the other hand, felt extremely cost-burdened in multiple different ways. A theme that was prevalent across focus groups is the cost relative to what was being rented. One renter remarked that “price is too high for everything that’s here that’s original within the house” and another renter asked “how much can the rent go up for our one bedroom in Brooklyn Center?” What these quotes convey is that rents are high not only for individual cost-of-living making them rent-burdened, but also that rents are high relative to the size of the units and the amenities, cleanliness, and livability that tenants are getting in the units where they currently live. Focus group responses regarding affordability are in Table 5.

Table 5: Focus Group Responses - Affordability

Rising Rents and Mortgages - Renters and Homeowners
“My husband hasn’t left the job he’s in now. He hasn’t gotten a raise in there. So for our rent- and he’s in school, and school tuition is going up. It seems like $600, $700 every semester. So for us, it seems like, okay, when’s going to be the cap? How much can the rent go up for our one bedroom in Brooklyn Center?” (West African Renter).
“I would say for me it’s... I don't know if this falls into your question or whatever you’re trying to ask, but for the amount that I pay for the shape of this house is not... I don't know how to word it, but you could say it’s not right. It doesn’t feel right for how much I’m paying.” (Hmong Renter).
“Those who bought their house earlier, it’s more manageable for them. For me, I just bought my house about three years ago. The mortgage is still high but it’s still manageable with me as well too because I like the area. I like the city. So, I’m pretty sure I will stay here.” (Hmong Homeowner).
Rising Rents and Mortgages - Landlords
“I do want to start by saying, I think affordability is going out the window with how the government played with our money the last two years. People just got a bunch of free money and the housing prices went up through the roof, I don’t think that's a secret to anyone on this call. And rent went up and I feel like if I have to stay up to date, taxes are going to go up, because my property went up, everything is going up. And how do I keep it affordable? I know it’s not going to be affordable for these people. They didn’t get a job, they didn’t get a better job, they didn’t get a raise at work. No one is raising the money that people are taking home, but yet everything else went up, food, housing, everything. And so, if we’re talking affordability, I think that’s a big issue. And that’s, I mean, I’m not sure, is it the right place to bring it up? But if the city is going to keep raising our taxes, we have to raise rent. Right? That’s just an obvious thing. But yet no one says, ‘Oh, this is a rental property, we should work with the landlords and try to keep this affordable for the people that live in the city.’” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I don’t know. Does it mean taxes for rental units, since we’re also covering rental insurance and it’s very clear to the city that it is a rental unit? Is there a program where taxes don’t go up so we can... And sure, I know we’re in America and it’s a free market, but there are countries across the world that are controlling rent by square footage and studies don’t say it’s a bad thing. So I don’t know if I’m going to say this is where we want to go, but I think if one of the ideas is to make this affordable for the community, Brooklyn Center is not, doesn’t have high salaries, that’s not a secret. And then, there should be a program that says, ‘How do we keep this affordable with the cost of living going up? What can we do to partner to make this work for the people?’” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I try to keep it affordable and I also try to make sure I’m not losing on the properties. I will say, I have a very small margin and I still, I do say I’m doing this for the community. And so, I’m not out there just to make a lot of money, but it’s getting really hard to keep it affordable for the people.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I know that we constantly monitor average rents in Brooklyn Center, actually a five mile radius from our current location. Constantly monitor that and always try to place ourselves squarely in the middle of that number. I’m a little hesitant to go as far as the previous speaker. I feel very uncomfortable with the government making decisions on what is affordable and whether or not we can go higher than that number. Especially being that if we’re locked in that number, I don’t see them being locked into our tax increases, locked into that number for our insurance increases, locked to that number for our utility costs, garbage costs, all that on top of it. So I feel a little uncomfortable with the government making the definition of what is affordable. And just my own personal opinion is that, what’s affordable for you is not going to be affordable for me or not be affordable for the other person. So, I think that’s spending time on coming up with affordable number seems, I think that effort can be put forth in a more productive manner. I mean, $400 a month for one bedroom might be a number that’s affordable for some people, then someone else say, ‘I can only afford $200.’ So, where do you exactly do you draw the line?” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“We definitely don’t want to be told where we can have our rents and where we can’t, how far, how high or how low we can go on those. So, we would definitely not want that to become a thing. But at the same time, we’re just like everybody else. We want to keep it affordable. However, we all were drastically impacted over the last year and a half, especially our market, I would think over anybody. We have owners that are carrying mortgages for the last 18 months that also then have taxes to consider and people aren’t paying utilities and the list goes on and on and on. So now, if we start getting back to the new norm, those are all factors that are going to have to be considered. And what can the city do to help us keep those prices lower, because the owners were hit so drastically these last 18 months? The rents are going to have to go up to compensate for that. And if the cities don’t help us out with us trying to keep those costs low, your average American family with mom and dad both working are going to struggle to find a place.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“The market eventually will tell us whether we’re affordable or not affordable. I mean, we can certainly tomorrow raise all our rents to $3,000 a month for a one bedroom and we’re not going to get that in Brooklyn Center, we’re not. So, that means market is telling us, what’s affordable and what’s not affordable.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“So it’s finding the sweet spot and what works. And then, like I said before, taxes go up every year, so you have to put in your agreement that there will be a rent increase. I try to do it annually. I do work with tenants to try to change it. So if they sign a longer agreement, they won’t get the increase. If they sign a two year, we will increase it after two years, but that’s really just working with them to try to make it and keep it affordable. Everyone knows, one month you have a vacancy, sometimes it’s worth it to keep your rent at the same price, because by the time you get someone else you’ve already lost them when you would make by increasing. So, all of that is, I am sure everyone else feels the same about it. We do try to keep it so that it works for the owner and the tenant. Because if not, you’re just not working.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
Affordability - Landlords
“If you cannot afford a unit, move out and find a more affordable unit for you. You don’t have to live in the nicest house in town. There’s affordable units and you have to make sure it’s affordable for you. I can tell you I have an affordable unit, but if you’re one person and you want to get a three bedroom house, ‘I’m sorry, you don’t need that.’ So, I think it’s really…I’m happy I’m not the only crazy person, I would pay my tenant to move out before I take them to eviction.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I was going to say I can start, I don’t know that I can really give you an answer as to how our organization defines affordable housing. And it really depends on what are you talking about affordable housing in the sense of subsidized housing, because that really isn’t our thing. We are a market rate community. But we do have an interest in keeping housing affordable, in the sense that we try to really balance our capital projects in a way that it’s not affecting cashflow in the sense that we then have to outprice our current tenant. We have no interest in bringing our property up from into an A class type property and displacing our current resident base. We want to keep it at a rate that is affordable for them to live there, but is also balances out us being able to upkeep the property and not having a bunch of deferred maintenance.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“All of our units actually do qualify for Section 8 assistance, but our units are really kind of fair and basic. So we have pretty much none of the upgraded luxury features, but they’re clean, they’re code compliant. Probably 85 percent of all of our units have a three year license with the city, so, I mean, they’re all really well maintained but we just kind of strip out all the unnecessary costs that a regular landlord would have to incur to keep the units affordable.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).


Respondents were also asked whether they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, and 62 percent of the survey respondents said that they did. When broken down between renters and homeowners, Figure 3 shows a wider disparity. While homeowners were pretty even between who spent more than 30 percent on housing costs and who didn’t, among renters the story is quite different. Renters significantly and overwhelmingly spent more of their housing costs on rent when compared to homeowners. Census Bureau data also supports the notion that renters spend more on their housing relative to homeowners: according to the 2019 American Community Survey, about 51 percent of renters are cost-burdened, compared to about 21 percent of owners. These findings suggest that renters may be more cost-burdened than homeowners with respect to overall housing costs and with how much they earn. Figure 22 shows the breakdown between renters and homeowners in terms of how much they spend on housing costs.

Figure 22. Housing Costs Across Renters and Owners

Figure 22. Housing Costs Across Renters and Owners


Brooklyn Center’s affordability challenges can be summed up in one statement—there are fewer deeply affordable units than households that need them. Using data provided by CoStar, we were able to determine that only 180 rental units—and only 24 market-rate units—are affordable to the more than 1,600 households earning less than $30,000, or 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for a family of three, so it is no surprise that 85 percent of those households are cost-burdened. Conversely, at the $50,000-$60,000 range, there are nearly 1,300 affordable market-rate units and an additional 860 subsidized units, far exceeding the 274 renter households in that income bracket. These numbers are presented in Table 6 and Figures 23 and 24.



Figure 23. Distribution of Renter Incomes and Affordable Rental Units

Figure 23. Distribution of Renter Incomes and Affordable Rental Units


Figure 24. Percentage of Renters and Owners Cost-Burdened

Figure 24. Percentage of Renters and Owners Cost-Burdened


Even among affordable rental units, there is a notable lack of diversity in size. Every one of the 156 subsidized units available to $30,000-and-under households is a one-bedroom apartment, and no apartments with more than two bedrooms are affordable to households in the $30,000-$50,000 range (see Figure 25). However, a large share of Brooklyn Center’s larger rental units are single-family homes, so these numbers may overstate the shortage of larger affordable rentals. A sample of 10 four-bedroom rental units from Rental Revue revealed that two were affordable to households earning up to $50,000, while eight were affordable to households in the $60,000-$80,000 range. But with an estimated 200 households with six or more members, it is unlikely there are enough larger units to serve this population. 

Figure. 25. Distribution of Cost and Rental Unit Size

Figure. 25. Distribution of Cost and Rental Unit Size


In short, the need for affordable housing is most pressing for households at the bottom of the income ladder, but most new developments do not serve this population. For instance, Sonder House, Brooklyn Center’s newest affordable housing development, is income-restricted to those earning up to 60 percent AMI. Fortunately, some relief may be coming for low-income renters in the first stage of the Opportunity Site redevelopment. A preliminary development agreement with Project for Pride in Living calls for 250 affordable units, including 147 units for renter households earning 30-50 percent AMI, with an additional 48 units further restricted to those earning less than 30 percent AMI. While the 30-50 percent AMI units have the potential to significantly reduce the rate of cost-burdened households among this group, the proposal amounts to less than four percent of the 1,387 cost-burdened households in the <30 percent AMI group.

A trade-off between the level of affordability and the quantity of units built is an inevitable feature of the current structure of affordable housing financing in the U.S., so it is vital that decision makers understand the nature of these decisions. The city must also consider the trade-offs between subsidizing new construction and preserving existing affordable housing. More than 170 units across three properties reached the end of their mandated affordability period in 2018 and 2019, with another 300 set to do so in the next five years. These do not automatically convert to market-rate units, but owners may opt to raise rents at any time absent a proactive plan to ensure those units remain affordable to households of modest means (e.g., through acquisition by a non-profit, as Aeon has done with two properties containing 178 units in recent years).

Findings: Accessibility


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.

Respondents had almost similar overall evaluations to that of livability and affordability, meaning that there were about the same amount of negative, neutral, and positive evaluations. Slightly more respondents felt positively towards accessibility in the city compared to livability and affordability. Figure 26 breaks down accessibility by neutral, negative, and positive evaluations by residents.

Figure 26. Survey Responses to “How Accessible is Brooklyn Center?”

Figure 26. Survey Responses to “How Accessible is Brooklyn Center?”


Renters reported concerns related to rising rent and housing prices as well as credit scores and income restrictions affecting the accessibility of the city. Homeowners cited similar problems such as housing prices, social stratification with respect to housing, and finding nicer homes to move to. In our focus groups, the convenience of Brooklyn Center was remarked on by many, noting that it is in the center of everything, it is close to the highway, and it is close to transit. Ethnic stores such as African stores and other cities such as Brooklyn Park were close to Brooklyn Center, and another respondent recounted that anywhere they wanted to go was within a fifteen-minute distance. A homeowner remarked that when houses go on sale they are taken off the market extremely quickly. A landlord also said that current students, recent graduates, and professionals love the convenience of Brooklyn Center to their campus and to work opportunities. The focus group responses for accessibility are in Table 7.

Table 7. Focus Group Responses: Accessibility

“’s close to the highway.” (West African Renter).
“’s [the] center of everything.” (West African Renter).
“Anywhere I want to go is like 15 minutes.” (West African Renter).
“I’m also right across the street from the transit.” (West African Renter).
“Well, I would suggest to somebody to… Or maybe encourage them to Brooklyn Center, I would say it’s convenient and it’s close to everything. Like [inaudible 00:06:07] just said, we have the gas station, we have the school right here, and we have the African store right there. And it’s not too far from the highway. It’s not too far from Brooklyn Park is not too far from downtown. [inaudible 00:06:23] is right there. I can go to the hospital, take my kids, come right back.” (West African Renter).
“I think it was just… I think it was the convenience of all the stores. I think we wanted to stay something in the cities so we really enjoy the Wal-Mart, the Whole Foods, everything was really close and tied to each other. So I think we just really enjoyed that.” (Hmong Renter).
“So we still want to be conveniently located yet we wanted to be able to offer transit as well as some of the services they need close to grocery stores and keep it affordable at the same time.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I think probably a couple of the number one factors are convenience to others in the Twin Cities and general overall affordability. And those are probably the main things.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“We tend to end up renting to a lot of recent graduates, so the University of Minnesota, Northwestern, and Bethel colleges, so tends to be three or four kids that are well positioned for employment, they’re probably getting their first kind of off-campus housing per se or their professional housing, and they probably work in variety areas that are around the Twin Cities so they do like the centrality of it. If one or two of them happened to still be attending school maybe as seniors or the like, they do like the convenience of access to all of those schools.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
Plowing and Cleanliness
“Well, the reason we moved to Brooklyn Center is because I like the area. The area is quiet. Parking space is pretty much free on the street. Every time snow come, they’ve been plowed really quickly. The housing here are distant apart. It’s not too clustered together. So, that’s the reason why we moved here.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“So, I like Brooklyn Center because in the winter time, the city plow the snow really quickly and really nice and clean. Not a lot of people walking around on the street, so it’s really nice area for the family to move in here.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“Well, one thing. Because the area here is really clean, really quiet. The housing are not too clustered together. There are really good neighbors helping each other. It feels like it’s freely to live in the area here.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“In my neighborhood, I noticed that whenever a house is on the market, it only goes about a week. It would be gone. So, it’s pretty positive that it must be a really good market and people really like the area in order to be able to sell those house quickly.” (Hmong Homeowner).
Lack of Job Opportunities
“Me personally, I feel like Brooklyn Center don’t have a lot of job options compared to Brooklyn Park. For example, if I was to check, I [inaudible 00:37:21] ask for you to put your zip code or what area you’re interested in, if I put Brooklyn Center there’s probably one to two jobs out of probably 50 jobs that’s available. It’d be nice to have more jobs that’s not fast food, but it’s more industrial jobs that’s available to us, because most of the jobs that’s available is all the way in Brooklyn Park.” (Hmong Renter).


Accessibility (Quantitative)

One measure of accessibility is the relationship between jobs and housing in a community. These two are inherently linked as income is directly related to housing affordability. The higher one’s wages the more likely one is to own a home and the less likely a household is to be cost-burdened. Distance and time to reach employment can also be barriers to affordability as one needs both the means (car, accessible transit) and resources (gas, insurance, etc.) to achieve job stability. Data from the Local Employment and Household Dynamics (LEHD) program of the Census Bureau can shed light on questions of employment and access in Brooklyn Center. The LEHD data shows the relationship between where people live and work as well as certain demographic characteristics about the employed population. For instance, we can examine where the jobs in Brooklyn Center are located and which industries they are concentrated in. We can also examine the commuting patterns of Brooklyn Center residents, showing where, how far, and in what industries they are employed. Finally, we can use these data to determine any spatial mismatches that exist between the jobs in the city and the residents. Do many people work and live in the same community? Do the skills of area residents match the jobs available locally? Are wages comparable between available jobs and the education and industry of employment for residents?

Detailed data on job accessibility and industry of employment can be found in Appendix 5, but in summary we have found that Brooklyn Center has an equal mix of both employed residents and the number of jobs, with surprising alignment between the industries that people work in and jobs that are available. Also notable is the fact that Brooklyn Center residents have much shorter commute times than metro averages. However, we also notice that the wages paid by local jobs are lower than those of Brooklyn Center residents. This means that a large number of people are forced to leave the city every day to find higher paying jobs in neighboring communities (Figure 27).

Figure 27: Brooklyn Center Jobs Inflow and Outflow

Figure 27: Brooklyn Center Jobs Inflow and Outflow
Figure 27: There is a close match between the number of jobs available and employed residents, but the vast majority of residents commute out for their work.

Findings: Safety


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.

Brooklyn Center residents rated Brooklyn Center more negatively and neutral when it came to safety in comparison to the other categories. These responses were more on the negative side than any of the other three main themes of livability, affordability, and accessibility. Figure 28 shows residents’ evaluations of safety in Brooklyn Center by positive, negative, and neutral responses.

Figure 28. Survey Responses to “How Safe is Brooklyn Center?”

Figure 28. Survey Responses to “How Safe is Brooklyn Center?”


While a majority of people felt safe navigating their neighborhood or the larger city, concerns still arose about residents’ safety navigating the city. The first was security: both homeowners and renters rated positively the security of their units and the overall neighborhoods that they lived in, and security in general seems to be an important theme in making sure people feel safe not only in their individual unit or house but within the community at large. The second theme that people expressed was positive feelings about crime: people were glad that there was low crime and they felt that the low crime rate contributed to their sense of safety. The third theme was interactions with police: seven homeowners and five renters had a negative view of police interactions, and this may be a salient topic due to the murder of Daunte Wright. Nonetheless, other citizens still avoided certain areas of the city and cited grievances with the police. Lastly, both homeowners and renters were concerned about navigating the city at night. In terms of what stable housing meant to the respondents, having a safe neighborhood with low crime rates was the most significant response among both homeowners and renters. Renters also wanted responsive landlords, while both renters and homeowners wanted a good school system and a walkable city.

Safety was a large theme in every focus group. Tenants, homeowners, and landlords all cited increases in crime and vandalism within their residences and properties in Brooklyn Center. In particular, our focus group respondents reported an increase in carjackings and vandalism and an overall lack of responsiveness from police. While the racialized groups in our focus groups reported relatively positive experiences with police and wanted more presence, the respondents in our Black and West African focus group in particular had issues with police and actively avoided law enforcement. One respondent’s story was particularly salient and deserves to be told in full:

“Someone tried to break in all the units on my floor a couple of weeks ago. We called for help. They didn’t come until about an hour later, but never let us know that they were in the building. We didn’t hear a siren. This man was still in the building going on different floors. We didn’t know. The only reason I know they came in is because I saw their heads go past the peephole. So it’s like, okay, so who’s here to help us? I feel like the ones that are supposed to enforce that on the ground is the police, or some form of policing. But we don’t have that right now in Brooklyn Center. I don’t know if we don’t have enough officers, or they all over north. I don’t know, but when we call for help, they don’t come. And if they do come, they’re aggressive, like you’re the person that is committing the crime. So it’s like, I don’t want call and then you kill me, but I’m calling you for somebody trying to kill me, you get what I’m saying? My kids are terrified of them now. So I don’t know. I don’t know what anybody else feels like, but I try my best to avoid them.”

This respondent’s experience highlights multiple pieces of safety issues that were prevalent in our focus groups in different ways. First, an increase in crime in general and personal property being broken into. Second, the lack of security and security cameras in rental units. Third, the lack of police presence within the city, and last the salience of police brutality that was on Black renters’ minds during the focus groups.[11] The responses on safety from the focus groups are in Table 8.

Table 8: Focus Group Responses - Safety


Lack of Safety
“...we are not safe. The area is not safe. There is a lot of criminal activity going on. We are not free to say what we want to say. [inaudible 00:09:24] on our expression, our [inaudible 00:09:27] our landlords, they are coming at us physically.” (West African Renter).
“So I would tell them, we are not safe for me. Brooklyn Center is not safe for me, except we are trusting the tenant protection.” (West African Renter).
“Where I live is kind of towards the border of Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, so I don’t… Me, I don’t go to any of those gas stations to pump gas or anything. I go a little bit towards the Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park side just because I’ve been messed with or I’ve been taunted at” (Hmong Renter).
“I feel safe at my home, but I can tell you that in this past summer we’ve gone to our local park once because of the safety issue…I think a lot of it has to do with what we’re seeing on the news, right? Or social media, just all the bad situations that individuals will come across and I think that just kind of sticks with us, thinking that it’s going to happen to us. And when I go to the park, I take my kids with me and I feel like I can’t protect them. I feel like if I go by myself I might be okay, but I don’t think… This summer we’ve gone once and I don’t feel like it’s enjoyable anymore. I feel like when there’s somebody with just a higher authority that just kind of make their rounds, or just kind of make an appearance, or just simply somebody as the park maintenance people, just more people showing up I feel like that would be a little bit more welcoming and it would encourage people that there’s people there, it’s nothing to be scared of. Even if you come across a sticky situation, you’ll have witnesses. I don’t know. I don’t know if that would help, but now when I go to the park I don’t even see anybody and so I’m like okay, if I do see somebody is it going to be bad or good people. So I feel like everybody’s staying inside.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“I would say that if the city can provide more security for that, because I feel that if the city is not doing that, providing security and make sure the safety is a measure in the city here, more and more of the people who do not want this kind of safety, dangers, depart. They’re going to move farther at the city and not willing to live in the city anymore. They know that the Brooklyn Center is closer to the Twin Cities, but it would be nice if they would have security that can help monitor or look at that more.” (Hmong Renter).
“I just wanted to see if Brooklyn Center can provide a little bit more security to maintain the city, so that we still continue to having the safety in our neighborhood here.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“But the security part and being safe at night, things like we used to do at night before, we don’t do that anymore. We don’t go out because it’s not safe. We hear on the news that there was a gunshot or something. With regard to the options, there’s always a different option, where to go, but I don’t think I will move. You get used to live in one place, where you live.” (Latinx Renter).
“Well, in the past, it was quiet and safe. Like before, we could leave the garage door open. My husband did it so many times, and we were not afraid. But now before going to bed, we have to make sure the garage light is on, the doors are locked. Like before, what we would do, we would turn off all the lights just to save electricity. But now it’s, before going to bed, lock all the doors or make sure they’re all locked. And my husband is also planning to install cameras. So it’s not the same. It's just that safety part is not there anymore.” (Latinx Homeowner).
Police Presence
“As for safety, because I’m right next to the transit, there’s a good police presence. There’s a lot of noise certain times.” (West African Renter).
“But for the most part, it’s a heavy police presence around. So I don’t worry about safety.” (West African Renter).
“I think due to COVID, you know how colleges will have a blue pole that has a red button it where you could call the police? I think due to the pandemic, because this lack of people outside, I think if the Brooklyn Center community have a pole like that all in the community, like parks, I think it might help in a way secure… bring security to people who are there.” (Hmong Renter).
Positive experiences with respect to safety
“So, I feel like I’m feeling safe where I live. Because even though, say I left something outside, forgot to close the garage, it’s still there. Nobody touching it. So, I feel that it’s safe.” (Hmong Homeowner).
Vandalism and Carjackings
“Lately within the last two years, I feel like there’s been an increase in vandalism in my neighborhood. My street is a private road and it’s dark. Just in the past two years, there’s been an increase in vandalism in our block. My car has gotten broken into once, searched twice. Just last week, our mailboxes were vandalized. So there has been an increase in that kind of activity, and I am a little concerned.” (Hmong Homeowner).
“However, during the pandemic, our car got stolen. And at the end we have to pay for the damage. I mean, our car got stolen, and then we ended up paying money that we were not planning to spend. And about three months ago, we have a neighbor that apparently she used a gun in downtown, but about three months ago, someone break into her house by force. In the morning, sometimes once we wake up, we’ll see her cars will be painting. They would say some things, or the walls or trees. So I have talked to some neighbors. The neighbors said that, you know, everything will be fine. We have exchanged phone number just in case something happens. But hopefully, thank God, nothing’s going to happen.” (Latinx Homeowner).
Rising Crime (Landlords)
“We are very, very concerned about what’s going on in Brooklyn Center. The increase in crime has skyrocketed last three months and I’m not sure the city is doing what they should be doing to address this. It’s getting to the point that we are looking to get out of Brooklyn Center.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I can echo that and I will say, my tenants are complaining. They let me know, ‘Oh, by the way, there was a break in across the street and no one did anything.’ And this happened and I really want to make sure my tenants who have little kids get to live in a safe community, but also if nothing happens and the tenants know more about who did the crime than the police does, that’s not good. And how do I keep little kids safe when people are shooting outside? You can’t even put up safety cameras, because tenants don’t feel comfortable having that. Which I think, if that was a standard and that made people not just decide to sit in front of your house and do crime, maybe that worked. I don’t know what's going to work, but the city’s not doing anything about it. And yeah, people are going to move out. They’re not going to want to live in a city where they live in a really nice house, but they can let their kids play outside because crazy stuff are happening on the street.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“Yeah. I don’t have too much more on that to add. I think all of us that have properties in Brooklyn Center are hearing the same thing. There’s only so much we can do as a landlord to try to protect our residents. And at the end of the day, we can give them some of those options, but we obviously can’t stop the crime. We can’t stop the gangs that are forming. So, it’s making it very, very hard to, as we talked about earlier, finding that neutral ground and is the neutral ground leaving the city?” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I know some of it is probably outside of the city’s control. I'm being told they lost about 12 or 13 police officers since Daunte Wright had been shot. And I’m sure it’s hard, but they are slowly losing control and it’s not, it’s going to get to the point where it’s not able to come back. And I really wish, instead of contacting us about a tenant saying that there might be mice in their apartment or blah, blah, blah, maybe spend a little bit more time trying to figure out how we’re going to stop the carjackings that are happening at two o’clock in the afternoon on our property.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“Yes. I think policing is not effective right now. And there are studies on how to do effective policing. If you have areas where there’s higher crime and I’ve never seen, not even once a cop drive by, but then you have areas where there's no crime and a cop is just sitting there for fun. That’s not healthy policing. There are areas where we know there’s crime and we choose not to go in there. And what sign does that send to the people? The tenants don’t feel safe and the gangs feel very happy. If that’s the goal, then they’re absolutely achieving it. But would I call what’s going on right now in Brooklyn Center, effective policing? Absolutely not.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“2021 for safety and security has been relatively rough for us. So we’ve probably received… And then keep in mind, all the units that manage are single family. So we don’t get a lot of calls on crime or safety from tenants because it’s the single family unit and usually they either reach out to the police department and we’re usually not involved. But over the, I don’t know, 12, 13 years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve maybe received four or five safety crime related type of calls. In 2021 we've probably received, I don’t know, three times that number in just one year. So the crime is definitely a lot higher right now that in the past. Most of it are [inaudible 00:34:56] when tenants call us, they’re usually trying to get out their lease because there’s a crime or safety concern. We usually try to work with them on getting them out of the lease as long as they give us enough notice and stuff like that. The second reason tenants usually call us in regards to safety and security is putting up fences. And like I said, we tried to work with them in providing fences and new locks and stuff like that when they do call.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).
“I mean, I can kind of expand on what I said, I guess in the second part of that and what we have done. We can’t create a police department within our community but we’ve done lighting audits. We’ve made sure that the communities are bright. I mentioned we installed a new fence and that fence is it doesn’t completely enclose the community, but it does cut us off to all of the neighborhood so other than our front entrance. We made sure we replaced some of the tenant outside lights to be dusk to dawn instead of depending on them to turn on their porch lights. We had an individual back patio fences as well. We’ve removed those. We had some concerns with people hiding, getting into the community and hiding behind them and since we’ve been fenced in the community, we didn’t feel those were then necessary or a good idea. So we’ve removed those and just other improvements. It has been my experience in the past that the better upkept your community looks, the less likely you are to have a lot of criminal activity. As [my peer] said, our community is a lot of persons of color as well and so there is some distrust with even trying to call the police departments.” (Brooklyn Center Landlord).


Quantitative data on crime and safety is difficult to interpret as we tend to rely on high-level city statistics when crime is experienced at a very personal and local level. What we can determine, however, are overall trends in crime, at least those classified as Part 1 felonies. Crime rates in Brooklyn Center may be higher than many parts of the metro area, but overall have been declining in all but one major category (auto theft) since 2008 (Figure 30). In fact, most categories of crime have seen levels drop to between 20 percent and 60 percent of 2008 levels. Rates of auto theft have been increasing in recent years, which matches what focus group respondents have reported.

Much harder to quantify is the perception of crime. You can’t tell someone that they shouldn’t feel unsafe because of decreasing crime rates at the city level. Nor can you measure the number and effectiveness of police in the community and their relationship to crime or perception of crime. Some feel more safe with an increased police presence, others less safe for instance.

Figure 29. Brooklyn Center vs. National Crime Rates 2002-2019

Figure 29. Brooklyn Center vs. National Crime Rates 2002-2019


Figure 30. Brooklyn Center Crime Rates 2008-2019

Figure 30. Brooklyn Center Crime Rates 2008-2019

Findings & Recommendations

Findings Summary

The survey and the focus groups were insightful looks into the experiences of residents and people who do business in the city of Brooklyn Center. The concepts and principles of livability, affordability, accessibility, and safety were extremely salient in both the survey and the focus groups. The focus groups in particular used these guiding principles as a basis for conversation, but the conversations did not feel rigid and the experiences of the participants were often easily related to one of the four principles.

The qualitative work in this project has magnified some clear issues that need to be considered in the future of Brooklyn Center. In the eyes of landlords, the processes of the city created an unfavorable place to do business, an unreasonable standard for inspections, and an inability to create affordable units. Owning property is a business that many are involved in and thus these opinions need to be taken into account as the city expands. For the renters and homeowners, the participants did not want to feel left behind as the city moved forward. For renters in particular, the conditions they are facing have been described by them as unacceptable and extremely poor. They blamed both the landlords and the city for creating negligent standards and having slow or even dismissive attempts at maintenance. Homeowners, as seen in the survey and in our focus groups, found the city to be generally affordable; however, this grip on affordability was slipping. Rising property taxes and rising cost-of-living rates burdened homeowners who were already, like others, facing difficulty due to COVID-19. The purpose of this qualitative data is to shed light on the depth of the experiences that Brooklyn Center residents and businesspeople face on a day-to-day basis in the city in order to have these voices considered as the city moves into the next phase of development. To support Brooklyn Center in taking these perspectives into account, we have included recommendations for the city and advisory council to consider in their ongoing work.


Below you will find recommendations under each of the major themes identified by the advisory council and covered in our findings. For this purpose, we included a total of eight recommendations. In each we attempt to directly address those major thematic findings by laying out each as its own heading: livability, affordability, accessibility, and security. Importantly, these recommendations are, naturally, interrelated and build upon each other in order to be responsive to the complexities and interconnection of housing issues. Under these themes, we provide specific, actionable recommendations to be utilized by the city and the advisory council in ongoing planning activities. To support implementation, we recommend ongoing work to engage the community in order to effectively address their needs.


On the theme of livability, the most common complaints were around quality and habitability of rental unit conditions and the timing and enforcement of maintenance in rental units. At the same time, some property owners and managers felt that the city was too strict with repair enforcement. While Brooklyn Center has adopted renter protection ordinances, prohibiting non-renewals without just cause and implementing a 30 day pre-eviction notification procedure, the city has had more difficulty finding a legal pathway to address rental unit quality and repair concerns. Part of the issue stems from the gap between what is covered by safety-driven unit inspection codes and what residents considered acceptable unit quality for the amount of rent they are paying. Other locales, including the city of Minneapolis, are actively working to address this problem by moving beyond brick and mortar safety standards and toward quality and dignified living standards for rental properties, and utilizing community-based boards with authority and resources to address repair complaints that may not fall strictly under safety codes. To work toward this end, we recommend the establishment of a community board (or adapting the composition and role of the existing Housing Commission) which represents both the rental and property owner community (with particular attention to representing the disempowered renters in this study), which is charged with addressing the conflicts and issues highlighted here, and has authority to recommend policy, programs, and resources allocations to addresses the issues raised by community members in this study.

Recommendation: Create a Rental Unit Quality Board (or adjust the current composition and role of the existing Housing Commission) with authority to update codes and repair procedures, and utilize repair resources, which can be implemented through existing maintenance inspection authorities on an emergency basis.

Composition and role of the Board: Whether a new body, or an adaptation of an existing board, the body should consist of representatives from the rental community and property owner and management community, with the balance favoring the less empowered renters, particularly the financially vulnerable renters highlighted by this study. The board’s role would be to address the rental unit livability issues raised in this study, and come to shared and actionable solutions to the obstacles Brooklyn Center and many other localities have confronted. It will need access to resources, and authority to implement its solutions. We recommend the following core issues as starting points for that process:

  • Adapting the rental unit code to cover quality and livability of rental conditions: To address the community’s concerns around items like aging and degrading carpets, appliances, and furnishings, and other difficult-to-enforce issues like pest control and cleanliness, the Board’s initial charge will be to develop a new set of quality and livability guidelines or standards.

  • Evaluating and updating the current accountability, resident reporting, and inspection process if necessary: Brooklyn Center currently has a standard inspection process for property licensing and a complaint response process for renters, both with the authority to enforce maintenance orders and levy fines. Our engagement revealed complaints by both renters and property owners that the enforcement was both lax and stringent, respectively. A second job of the Board should be to address these complaints and consider updating these processes to make sure they are compatible with the needs of community members and capable of enforcing and supporting the new quality guidelines.

  • Establishing an emergency repair procedure with authority to make statute-based repairs without the consent of property owners and levy the cost: The city of Minneapolis has experimented with an emergency repair authority, which when called by tenants, and evaluated by their emergency repair board, has the authority to make emergency repairs without the consent of property owners and then hold the property owner responsible for the cost (i.e. by holding the tenant’s rent in escrow within the court system). In Brooklyn Center we recommend that this process would be overseen by the Rental Unit Quality Board, which would determine which repairs would qualify for this process and manage the process of sourcing repairs and enforcing the financial accountability of property owners.

  • Investing in a fund for costly quality repair issues: Not all repairs and improvements will be reasonable from a short-term cost standpoint and enforceable under statutes. Some housing authorities, such the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, have established funds that can be requested to address situations such as a previous tenant who ruined carpets or damaged appliances or furnishings beyond normal repair. The idea is to incentivize the timely improvement, refurbishing, and upkeep of affordable units by making some public subsidies available through an application process overseen by the Board so that property owners can make more costly repairs at a reduced cost and keep those units in use and at a reasonable level of quality, while working around potential legal obstacles to enforcing such repairs. This would give the board more leeway to develop its new unit quality standards.

  • Developing a communication plan for the new guidelines and process: Based on what structure and guidelines the Board arrives at in terms of quality guidelines and processes for reporting and enforcement, they should also develop a communication plan to ensure that the community is well aware of the changes and their rights under the new system. Our engagement revealed gaps in understanding in terms of what maintenance issues are under the current code and few tenants seemed aware or trusting of the complaint process.


Brooklyn Center’s affordability challenges are most severe among extremely low income (ELI) households. The paucity of naturally occurring affordable housing at the <30 percent AMI level leaves renter households who are not fortunate enough to secure a spot in one of the city’s 156 subsidized units paying a large portion of their monthly income on rent. This precarious living arrangement leaves many renters only one or two missed paychecks away from eviction. While the Opportunity Site redevelopment has the potential to provide low-income renters with high-quality affordable housing, there is a risk that it induces gentrification, driving up rents and displacing residents in nearby neighborhoods.

Recommendation: Create a Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) Preservation Program to encourage rehabilitation of older units while maintaining affordability, particularly in buildings that serve renters earning less than 60 percent AMI.

The majority of Brooklyn Center’s affordable housing stock is unsubsidized: 69 percent of units in larger multifamily buildings that serve households earning no more than 60 percent AMI lack a subsidy. However, with an average age of 54 years, many of these buildings are badly in need of repairs—a fact reinforced by the testimony documented in this report. In order to rehabilitate these units while preserving their affordability, the city should create a NOAH Preservation Program, with a focus on units serving 31-50 percent AMI households.

Similar programs adopted by other municipalities in the Twin Cities metro could provide a useful model for Brooklyn Center’s initiative. The city’s neighbor to the north, Brooklyn Park, launched a preservation program in 2020 for 60 percent AMI units that includes several important components. Developers must demonstrate an ability to carry out rehabilitation projects through past NOAH experience as well as financial capacity. This requirement will maximize the likelihood of successful projects that do not run over budget. Other components include a “robust tenant engagement plan” and a preference for projects that do not result in displacement. And by setting a goal of limiting investment to $5,000-$10,000 per unit, the city can maximize the impact of the program.

Another, complementary option would be to provide NOAH property owners tax relief through the 4d affordable housing incentive program. Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Edina, and Brooklyn Park all participate. Qualifying properties (four plus units) must keep at least one-fifth of units affordable to households earning no more than 60 percent AMI for a minimum period of ten years. In exchange, owners receive a 40 percent tax rate reduction for each qualifying unit. For a 30-unit building with a $50,000 annual tax bill, this translates to savings of $4,000 to $20,000 per year, depending on the number of participating units. Given concerns among landlords about high property taxes, a 4d program would likely attract significant interest.

Recommendation: Develop a data monitoring program to track changes in key housing metrics, including rents and evictions.

As the Opportunity Site redevelopment gets underway, there is a possibility that such a large influx of new investment may create spillover effects that drive up rents in adjacent neighborhoods. With much of the city still vulnerable to gentrification, it is crucial that decision makers have up-to-date housing data to identify any signs of displacement, such as the loss of affordable housing or a spike in evictions. Most of this data is publicly available and easily accessible. Data on cost-burdened households, incomes, and racial demographics come from the five-year American Community Survey; these numbers can be easily retrieved using the Minnesota Compass website. A list of subsidized properties can be found through HousingLink’s Streams service, with a breakdown by AMI level. Eviction filing and judgment numbers are accessible on the Hennepin County Evictions dashboard. However, data can be viewed only at the zip code level; since the zip codes that encompass Brooklyn Center also extend into Brooklyn Park and North Minneapolis, the dashboard will overstate the number of citywide evictions.


In response to questions about accessibility, participants reiterated concerns about the affordability and availability of the types of homes they desired and the local availability of the type of employment opportunities they desired. This is borne out by data that shows that while there are enough jobs to match employed residents, they tend to be lower paying and not attracting residents of the city. Most employed residents are traveling outside the city to work despite what looks like a good match between industry of employment and available jobs. Accessible, good-paying jobs are directly linked with housing affordability and stability. On the positive side, residents reported the convenience to other community assets such as stores and restaurants and the general benefits of Brooklyn Center’s central metropolitan location, affording them the ability to travel to neighboring communities as needed. Our recommendations involve preserving and building on some of the assets of convenience, while continuing to improve affordability by boosting public transit options and promoting development that produces high quality jobs, which could have the downstream effect of improving resident finances and easing affordability concerns.

Recommendation: Work with businesses and industry to develop and maintain living-wage jobs in Brooklyn Center that align with the educational backgrounds and skills of residents.

Our employment analysis revealed a fortuitous alignment between the industries in which Brooklyn Center residents work and the employers that are already present in Brooklyn Center (see Appendix 5 for detailed employment analysis). These include three industries with strong living-wage potential: health care and social services, manufacturing, and educational services. However, 93 percent of residents are commuting out of Brooklyn Center to work, suggesting a missed opportunity for both residents and employers in those industries. Armed with this knowledge, the city could partner with employers in those industries to expand their operations in Brooklyn Center, while developing outreach with local workers to understand their skills and needs and match the industry partnership efforts to the career pathways of the residents, ideally including job training initiatives to benefit local workers who want increase their earning power within these industries. Building these employment pipelines could have the short-term effect of reducing transportation expenses for families and the medium-to-long term effect of improving the overall employment landscape in Brooklyn Center as locals in these industries are able to build career pathways and professional networks and increase their income levels.

Recommendation: Connect local transportation infrastructure to incoming Blue Line Extension to streamline commutes.

Brooklyn Center is not a large city, so inevitably many residents will still commute outside of the city for their work and living needs. In fact, many respondents mentioned the geographically central location within the Twin Cities as an accessibility benefit. A relatively low-cost, high-benefit investment would be to establish efficient, local connections to the Blue Line Extension, which is currently expected to have three stops 1 to 1.5 miles west of Brooklyn Center. These could take the form of short, express bus routes, protected bike lanes, park-and-ride facilities or ideally, all of the above. This could potentially allow more families to operate with fewer automobiles and reduce living expenses and ease commutes to many parts of the metro area as the Blue Line will connect residents to other rail lines, including the Southwest line.

Recommendation: Partner with commercial land trusts to preserve affordable commercial spaces for local businesses.

Many of the respondents mentioned the accessibility of goods and services as one of the desirable features of living in Brooklyn Center. Ethnic-serving businesses are an important component of that accessibility, but these establishments are more vulnerable to displacement through rising commercial rents. Although land trusts typically focus on affordable home ownership, many also work to preserve the affordability of commercial spaces. By partnering with a commercial land trust to support local small businesses, the city can simultaneously maintain the accessibility of which so many residents spoke while promoting wealth creation among local business owners.


Safety concerns were one of the most consistent findings in the qualitative part of the study. Homeowners, property owners, and renters all expressed concerns about rising crime and unresponsive police. Residents of color additionally expressed difficulty trusting law enforcement, creating a situation where they felt unsafe but also hesitant to call the police.

These concerns cannot reasonably be discussed without considering the events following the 2020 murder of Daunte Wright. Like many American cities that experienced protests in the Spring of 2020, Brooklyn Center experienced both significant police department staffing shortages and changes in police response strategies at the same time crime began to rise throughout American urban centers, likely contributing to the issues that were raised in our research. Brooklyn Center has responded more quickly than some other cities in initiating a reform process.

In May of 2020, The Brooklyn Center City Council drafted and approved The Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution. That resolution included a mandate to create a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention “responsible for overseeing all city agencies and city efforts regarding community health and public safety.” In addition, the resolution covered the installation of a Director of that department (who is now in place) and the establishment of a permanent Community Safety and Violence Prevention Committee, composed of “city residents with direct experience being arrested, detained, or having other similar contact with Brooklyn Center Police.” This committee is empowered to review and comment on collective bargaining negotiations with the police and make recommendations to the City Council regarding policies and programs. The resolution also mandated the creation of an “Implementation Committee,” composed of “residents and experts from Brooklyn Center and other local, state and national experts in public health-oriented approaches to community safety,” appointed by the mayor, that will draft policies, guidelines, amendments etc., for review by the City Council.

According to our study, many issues of safety and public trust of law enforcement remain, but some structures are theoretically in place for reforms that reflect residents’ concerns. As the city embarks on their reform process, we recommend targeting the following three strategies.  

Audit of Policing Practices and Policies:

Utilizing the power to access public safety that is established in the Community Safety Resolution, Brooklyn Center should task a community-led board to perform a systematic review of crucial areas of police practice and policy, namely response procedures (process, timelines, and utilization of unarmed response teams) and how officers are hired, trained, and promoted. This could be led by the Community Safety and Violence Prevention Committee or by a similar body created specifically for this purpose. The crucial element would be that this body has a majority of community members who have interacted with police, including those seeking assistance, informal interactions, participation in protests, arrest or detainment, and those who have supported someone in this spectrum of interactions. To support the audit, this body should utilize an outside research/technical team to support its evaluation strategy, and should hold regular public meetings to maintain transparency.

Expanded Data Collection and Sharing:

To increase transparency and to enable ongoing community oversight of public safety practice and policy, Brooklyn Center should establish expanded data-collection and sharing procedures. This should be implemented by a board consisting of both community members and police leadership staff and would include:

  • Hiring third-party consultants to do a literature review and key informant analysis of policing data collection practices in and outside of the state.

  • Building a partnership with the Minnesota POST Board and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to regularly exchange data collection tools, processes, and policy knowledge that informs the City of Brooklyn Center’s comprehensive data collection metrics that keep state process and protocols in mind.

  • Regular public meetings for community updates and input.

Facilitation, Leadership and Design of Reform Initiatives:

The city should work in partnership with the newly hired Director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention to hire a facilitator or team of facilitators who can work across coordinated initiatives to:

  • Facilitate/co-facilitate the relevant committees or boards to mitigate potential conflicts of interest that occur when elected officials or other stakeholders facilitate these processes.

  • Co-design the timeline and deliverable schedules and hold each entity accountable to those timelines and deliverables, adjusting where necessary.

  • Help support the community dialogue, data collection, and healing strategies across projects using equity-based community engaged methods.

References & Endnotes


Damiano, A., & Frenier, C. Build baby build? Housing submarkets and the effects of new construction on existing rents. 2020.

Dragan, K., Ellen, I., & Glied, S. Does gentrification displace poor children? New evidence from New York City Medicaid data (No. w25809; p. w25809). National Bureau of Economic Research. 2019.

Goetz, E. G., Lewis, B., Damiano, A., & Calhoun, M. The diversity of gentrification: Multiple forms of gentrification in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. 2019.

MetroGIS. Metro Regional Parcel Dataset – (Year End 2020). 2021. Retrieved from Minnesota Geospatial Commons.

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[1] This study was approved through The University of Minnesota’s IRB as STUDY00012696.

[2] This trend appears to contradict the Census Bureau data, which showed evidence of rising rents between 2000 and 2011. This discrepancy may be a product of differences in data collection: the CoStar data includes only market-rate units in multifamily buildings with four or more units, and also excludes utilities. However, the trend of rising rents and stagnating incomes is consistent across both data sets.

[6] Brooklyn Center has large representation from West African countries, and so we found it important to capture not only the experiences of Black renters in the city but also West African renters in particular.

[7] Rev is a secure transcription service that many researchers use to transcribe their data from recordings. We sent audio files and not video in accordance with our IRB, and Rev holds a high standard on privacy. We felt comfortable using Rev services because of the accuracy of the transcription and because of how commonly it is used in other academic projects.

[8] Again, the focus group format provided insight into how landlords truly felt about inspections. On the surface all landlords agreed with the importance of inspections; however, after hearing from their fellow landlords about the difficulties of the process, they began to open up about how they individually have faced burden from city inspections and rules.

[9] Total evictions records divided by number of renter households according to ACS data

[10] We use a combination of metrics to evaluate neighborhood change/gentrification, including trends in rents and home prices along with changes in the proportion of the population with a college degree. For a complete explanation of CURA’s methodology, see the 2019 report The Diversity of Gentrification: Multiple Forms of Gentrification in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

[11] “System avoidance” is the correct term to use when acknowledging peoples’ avoidance towards the police. There is an extremely rich and large literature in Political Science, Sociology, Black Studies, Criminology, and Public Policy on the difficulties that marginalized groups internally and externally face when considering calling the police. For the purpose of these focus groups, we found that this and other Black/West African participants’ responses aligned with the vast literature.