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Report: People still live in Minneapolis

Pictured, according to right-wing media: A future ghost town.

Pictured, according to right-wing media: A future ghost town. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Minneapolis had a good run.

The ongoing narrative in conservative circles is that the city's done. Unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police, discussion of defunding the city police department, a brief uptick in gun violence, and... that's that. Please ask the last person fleeing Minneapolis to turn off the lights.

Take this thinkpiece from Intellectual Takeout, a publication of the right-leaning Charlemagne Institute.

“People are fleeing for safety,” a late July post called “A New Migration Begins?” claims. Minneapolis and other “blue state metros” have become dangerous territory for people looking to “raise their families as conservatives and Christians.”

Sources cited included a priest and several people on the street… in South Dakota.

Others are seizing on a recent report from the Downtown Council, which found, as reported by Twin Cities Business:

10 suburban or out-of-state employers have canceled searches for downtown office space
8 downtown companies have chosen to relocate to the suburbs, citing safety concerns
27 downtown companies are either considering or are actively seeking space in the suburbs to leave downtown

The Council conveniently declined to name a single business in any of those groups. One owner did talk to WCCO for a follow-up story published yesterday.

The keen eye will see there might be... more than one factor here. We'll help you spot it.

“This is by far the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had in my 20 years of owning businesses downtown,” said Erik Forsberg, who owns Devil’s Advocate and two other downtown restaurants. They’ve been closed since COVID-19 started and crime multiplied.

Even still, all of this is a reprise of what (outstate) Republican lawmakers have been been claiming long before the Uprising: that Twin Cities crime is perpetually on the cusp of turning Minneapolis and St. Paul into ghost towns. It hasn’t yet, but maybe this most recent episode was the last straw. Maybe big-city dwellers are finally deciding it’s the suburbs or bust from here on out.

The Minneapolis Area Realtors, a nonprofit industry association, decided somebody should probably run some numbers on that.

To that effect, in a study released last week, the group analyzed the city’s housing activity based on four basic measures: new listings, percent of original list price received, days on the market, and showings. They sampled a “variety” of communities and compared Minneapolis's figures to other metro cities to determine if, as social media claims, people have been fleeing.

In a word: naw. Activity in June was pretty much stable. Sure, more houses were put up for sale in June than May, the report found, but "that increase is comparable to other cities and is still below 2019 [Minneapolis] levels."

Sellers were receiving and accepting offers -- at an average of 100 percent of their list price -- in “near-record” time. Even if a higher-than-normal amount of people were to put their homes up for sale, the report says, it’s likely “the insatiable demand” for Minneapolis property would gobble them up in a heartbeat.

“In summary, a closer examination of the data does not support claims that the City of Minneapolis is seeing a disproportionate increase in seller activity… in the weeks following the unrest,” the report says.

In the broader view, the opposite is true. During this decade, Minneapolis's population has grown faster than at any time since the 1950s. That’s when a lot of families – particularly white and middle-class ones – started taking advantage of low home costs in the outer ring and hopped to the suburbs. 

As noted in our recent excerpt from Tom Weber's new book Minneapolis: An Urban Biography:

In 1950, Minneapolis reached a pinnacle. In that year’s federal census, the city’s population was 521,718. It’s the highest-recorded population in Minneapolis history and the only time a census put the city over the half-million mark.
From there, the city’s population started a decades-long decline, thanks to the postwar movement of people into the suburbs and out of the Midwest in general.
It’s also hard to comprehend how white the city was in 1950: an incredible 98.4 percent. Fewer than eighty-five hundred people in Minneapolis listed their race as Black, American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander, or Other. That has gradually changed. In 2010, the census tallied Minneapolis’s white population at 63.8 percent.

The population hit a low at around 370,000 in the ‘90s, but in the next decade, it grew nearly 4 percent. That trend has only picked up in the past decade, as seen in new numbers the Metropolitan Council published last week.

Since the 2010 census, the population of Minneapolis has grown from 382,578 to an estimated 435,885 in 2019, a 7 percent increase that puts the city at its highest population level since 1970. The city doesn't have a population problem; it has an affordable housing crisis.

The data seems to indicate that people… want to be here. And, for now, they haven’t been fixing to leave.

In its report, the Minneapolis Area Realtors claimed to be “hopeful” that “our policy discussions and general discourse will become increasingly rooted in facts and data.”

We wish we could say the same.