Robbinsdale’s renters comprise almost 40% of our over 14,000 residents. With over 300 apartment units built in the past four years, we now have more than 1,100 apartment units, numerous duplexes, and a variety of rented single family homes. Renters are an important demographic that, in the past five years and counting, have expanded dramatically and will continue to expand as more rental units are being built.
Renter policies disproportionately affect poor and marginalized communities so its a matter of equity to make sure that our renter's voices are heard by City Council and reflected in city policies.
As a candidate for Ward 3 City Council, I have spent time on the ground canvassing nearly 700 residents living in apartments, duplexes, and triplexes. I’ve listened to what they have to say, and during our conversations I have repeatedly heard that I am the first candidate to ask what they want for – and need from – our city. My goal is to enact a viable, yet approachable and fair, Renters' Commission to advise the City Council on items that affect renters most: equal access to Affordable Housing, safety and a sense of belonging to your neighborhood, building trust and respect with your neighbors and your property owner and, perhaps most of all, to have your voices heard by City Council and reflected in city policies. If elected, I will serve as your advocate for these and many other areas so that we, as a city, can increase unity and community in our city.
Thinking outside the box is an essential component to both my career as a User Experience Designer and what we need from a City Council member. Both jobs involve reworking and redesigning broken or confusing processes to make things easier and better for people. I want to do that for our city, and while speaking with renters in Ward 3, the need for a Renters’ Commission became increasingly apparent. I want to create a commission whose work is sustainable and will foster trust, respect, and collaboration between renters, owners, and the city’s staff and elected officials.
Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Sure, what you’re saying on paper sounds great, you betcha! But how will Jonathan Healy’s commission work for me?” My goal is to be your advocate on our City Council for your needs and to make positive change happen; the difference between promising and doing. You deserve more than platitudes and vague promises of conversation. Let’s take, as a simple example, being a renter with an uncaring absentee landlord where the heat has gone out during the winter and the fridge is failing and, despite the countless times you’ve brought this to your landlord’s attention, they haven’t taken your concerns – your rights – seriously and have brushed them off to the side, leaving you feeling unheard and potentially helpless. With my proposed Renters’ Commission, you would have an official forum to advocate for your needs and desires.
Just as our Senior Commission is composed of Robbinsdale senior citizens, my proposed Renters’ Commission would be composed of up to fifteen renters from across our city who apply for the commission, are appointed by the City Council, and provide their recommendations to the City Council. The Renters’ Commission will document patterns and practices, and can suggest practicable solutions that get problems fixed and fixed effectively. This may be as easy as a conversation with your landlord, or if an established pattern of renter neglect or code violations can be shown, the council may deny a rental license or take other appropriate action to return the sense of security to renters we all expect and deserve.
The commission could undertake various matters, like providing input on transit to make it more equitable, suggesting revisions to make our Crime-Free Housing Ordinance fair so it can no longer be used to target renters of color, and requesting that apartment renters have first bid on plots at our community garden so that they have some outdoor space to tend. Everyone in our city should strive to be good neighbors, and this commission will help foster that for this important demographic.
Changes like these take time, no doubt, and with your support and my drive to be your City Council representative for all of Ward 3 – renters, owners, workers, business owners, and those outside of the workforce alike – we can come together as a community to devise, implement, and enact solutions that are achievable and sustainable. Join me and let’s build a better Birdtown together!