Economic Policy

Urban Decay and North Minneapolis

By Matt Johnson

An indicator of a healthy socioeconomic environment is the physical environment itself. In urban dynamics, it is referred to as the attractiveness of the city. This attractiveness is such things as lakes, creeks, rivers, and parks. South and Southwest Minneapolis certainly have most of these, if not more. Other attractive things are employment opportunities, educational opportunities for both children and adults, low crime rates, and a healthy infrastructure. These are certainly not all of the possibilities of attractiveness. But what does not help perpetuate upward mobility for its citizens is the opposite – the unattractive things.

Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis - Foreclosures decreasing overall in Minneapolis

Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis – Foreclosures decreasing overall in Minneapolis despite the 4th and 5th Wards

For example, North Minneapolis experiences some of the highest unemployment rates in the city of Minneapolis, higher crime rates, and a lack of competitive educational opportunities for both adults and children. Whats more, North Minneapolis experiences the highest level of blight in the Minneapolis system. According to the current report of Minneapolis Trends: A Quarterly Overview of Socioeconomic & Housing Trends in Minneapolis, a quarterly publication by the City of Minneapolis, the highest concentration of condemned and vacant buildings in Minneapolis are located in North Minneapolis in Wards 4 and 5. And it’s a striking concentration with serious socioeconomic consequences.

To add to this urban decay and decrease in attractiveness, North Minneapolis is experiencing a greater number of foreclosures than any other part of the city. For example, in North Minneapolis Ward 4 and Ward 5 experienced a 28 percent and 12 percent foreclosure rate in the first quarter of 2015, respectively. This is by far higher than any of the other wards in Minneapolis. And this is not a one time deal. Since the first quarter of 2014, both Ward 4 and Ward 5 have continuously experienced double-digit foreclosures in their respective neighborhoods. They have led all other wards in the percentage of foreclosures and total number of foreclosures despite the overall decrease of foreclosures in the city of Minneapolis (see the foreclosures’ graph).

Now what is a resident to make of this situation? First, the high percentage of foreclosures means that there is less cash flowing through the sub-system of North Minneapolis than any of the other neighborhoods: Northeast Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, and Sourthwest Minneapolis.

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis -

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis – High Concentrations of blight in North Minneapolis

Second, urban blight and crime are correlated. Blight and unemployment are correlated. And finally, crime and unemployment are correlated. But more than that, those three things keep potential businesses, both small and large, potential consumers, and potential investors from pouring money, time and energy into North Minneapolis. Again, this adds to the decrease cash flow through the environment of the sub-system.

This also perpetuates the depression of economic and educational opportunities for current North Minneapolis residents. This is not to say that North Minneapolis does not have anything to offer. Nothing could be further from the truth and this article should not persuade the reader to think otherwise. But the discrepancies and the neglect of such discrepancies will remain in the consciousness of all Minneapolis residents until such environmental discrepancies as urban decay are addressed. If not, the good that is North Minneapolis will continue to be overlooked.



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