Urban decay consists of high unemployment rates, high crime rates, increasing numbers of condemned and vacant buildings, high foreclosure numbers and rates, depopulation, political inequalities, economic lethargy, and the decreased attractiveness of a city. However, and with respect to these categories, Minneapolis is currently doing very well as a whole. This of course does not mean that Minneapolis is without its challenges or discrepancies.
The unemployment rate for “black” Minneapolis residents was more than three times that of “white” Minneapolis residents in 2011 according to the Economic Policy Institute. In general, “black” children were, and probably still are, performing at half the rate of “white” children in Minneapolis grade schools and Minneapolis had the worst high school graduation rate of the 50 largest cities in the United States in 2013 according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education. Clearly, Minneapolis has some work to do. But while Minneapolis has discrepancies, it also has its share of successes.
As Figure 1 illustrates, the total number of vacant and condemned buildings and the total number of foreclosures for Minneapolis peaked at 1,731 units in the third quarter of 2008. This was clearly within the time frame of the housing market crash and the Great Recession. Minneapolis clearly suffered its share of unfortunate economic incidents during that time period.
But as the graph also indicates, after the peak of the 748 foreclosures and the 948 vacant and condemned buildings in late 2008, Minnapolis’ urban blight has been trending downward at a fairly consistent rate. And although there have been some spikes here and there, the rate along with the total number of foreclosures and vacant and condemned buildings has been greatly reduced.
As of the second quarter of 2015, there were 109 foreclosures and 531 vacant and condemned buildings for a total 640 buildings throughout the whole of Minneapolis. That is a reduction of 1,091 units. In other words, Minneapolis has reduced its rate of urban blight with respect to foreclosures and vacant and condemned buildings by more than two times.
Taking this a step further, the unemployment rate was the lowest for the largest metropolitan areas in the United States at 3.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015; the average weekly wages for Minneapolis according to Figure 2 have been steadily rising since 2006 despite the Great Recession; and according to the United States Census Bureau, the population of Minneapolis has grown by more than 25,000 residents since 2010.
With these positive economic facts in mind, the urban blight of Minneapolis ought to continue to decrease as residents find jobs and their wages continue to increase, at least in theory. Time will tell. But for the short term, Minneapolis will be seeing more bright and less blight.