Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is North Minneapolis Becoming "Non Profits Ville?"

First of all, I did not coin the term "Non Profits Ville," though I wish I had. A friend of mine coined the term...OH HOW I WISH SHE WERE MORE THAN A FRIEND, but we won't go there.

"Non Profits Ville" is the idea that...

...many of the affordable houses and lots in North Minneapolis are being snapped up by do-gooder organizations like Habitat for Humanity, PPL, Urban Homeworks...you name it, they're snapping up houses. And this is a good thing, right?

I think it is, but my friend says "North Minneapolis is becoming Non Profits Ville." Rather than an influx of homeowners, we are getting an influx of 501(c)(3) organizations. If North Minneapolis becomes "Non Profits Ville," what will that future look like?

I argue the alternative: it is far better than the alternative: Slumlordia. Since eco-yuppies have yet to come in droves (despite my best efforts, though I'm hardly alone) one alternative to slumlords is non-profit organizations. ANYTHING has to be better than slumlords, right? RIGHT?!!!!

I'm not hearing shouts of agreement. I think discussion might be heavy in the air, like a humid summer day that needs experience heat lightning.

The photo above shows a house on Bryant Avenue North. The area of Bryant close to Broadway (and the new planned YWCA) is seeing activity, lately, with this house one example. I swear, gremlins are repairing it. I never see it happening, but when I go by, there is progress. All this siding was stripped off in just the last few days. About a week ago there was a sign advertising how this was a youth project aimed at building skills, keeping youth in school.

When I see a sign like that, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand: excellent program, glad it's happening, and surely somebody wants to promote it. On the other hand, it reminds me of a sign I saw once in a barrio in Hermosillo, Mexico. A big billboard advertised how this neighborhood had CLEAN, HEALTHY DRINKING WATER and it was all thanks to some wonderful program put on by the oh-so-benevolent and far-sighted government , through the PRI, if I recall correctly. (Party of Revolutionary Institutions)

How does that make you feel if you live in that neighborhood? Your neighborhood is in such a state somebody has to advertise "clean drinking water?" If I lived in that barrio, would I feel proud, or would I feel like that sign actually stigmatizes my neighborhood? My son--who lives in the southern suburbs, who does 11th grade math though he is only in 6th grade and will soon test for some kind of special program through the U of M--would never see a sign like that emerge in his neighborhood, just like he would never see roving gangs of youth who do not realize on the 8th Day God made sidewalks so people won't have to walk in the middle of the street.

So, yeah...Non Profits Ville. Good or bad or Johnny Northside is the devil? Discuss.


Jordan Neighbor said...

JOhnny Northside is the devil.


I think I can relate to your mixed feelings. as a northsider, I am somewhat glad to see some nonprofits doing some things, but at the same time I just think of all the bodies behind the non-profit and I just think, don't those people know the best thing they can do is MOVE HERE??? But they dont, they don't want to, or they can't or whatevr - so they 'settle' for trying to do a non-profit and make a difference that way.

veg*nation said...

i agree with you that having non-profits in the neighborhood is great--and certainly better than having either vacant properties or, as you say, slumlords. the problem that i have heard expressed is not so much having non-profit headquarters around, but that if a lot of properties are being held/used in such a way that they aren't generating property tax revenue, or if, for instance, they are subsidized and not being sold/rented at market value. in the current climate, there certainly isn't any danger of non-profits squeezing anyone out of the neighborhood, but perhaps people are concerned that the dynamic might be set in place and difficult to turn around when the economy and/or the neighborhood turns up. there is also the related question of whether low-income housing is being unfairly massed in one area of the city, to the detriment of both the neighborhood and the low-income residents.

Ranty said...

Non-profits are receiving some hefty incentives to invest in these homes, whether by rehabbing them or demolishing and building new.

Where are the incentives for the owner-occupants, I ask?

(Yes yes, I know all about the Mpls Advantage program, thank you. Have those guidelines been SET yet, by the way? Until they are I refuse to get my clients' hopes up about it. And let us not forget that those funds are a drop in the bucket when it comes to NSP money.)

I realize that the sentiment of homeowner 'not being for everyone' is all in vogue right now, but I (no pun intended) am not really buying it.

North Minneapolis needs invested residents.

1915bung said...

All non-profit means is that the organization spends all it's assets each fiscal year. Many of the directors make great salaries.

There are good non-profits and bad non-profits.

What the community should be interested in is what these entities will do with the homes that make up our neighborhoods. We need more single family owner occupied residences who can afford to maintain these homes. The former "homes for poor people" approach seems to have failed miserably.

Anonymous said...

My major objections to the non-profits are twofold: First, please don't put them all the major thoroughfares. North Minneapolis is desperate for consumer spending. When we fill up West Broadway and Lowry with non-profits, there is nothing on those streets to encourage the transit-oriented people to stop, get off the buses and spend a little money here. There is nothing to encourage the commuters who pass through to stop and look around.

Second, we already have so many non-profits operating here! Many of them with the same mission, the same target group. They compete for resources and spend so much more of those resources on administrative costs because each one needs an administrator/director and someone to answer the phones, etc. Then there are the poverty pimps who rush in with grand sounding schemes, get their grants and then disappear without having done anything they said they would. And did you notice the shiny new cars they are all driving?

Sometimes non-profits do better when things do not improve because then they can seek more and more money and employ more and more worker bees to help the people who remain poor and disempowered. After all, if all those poor people got better and wealthier, the non-profit folks might find themselves without jobs and then they would be the poor ones who needed help.