Posted on August 29, 2023

Racist Housing Practices Left Minneapolis With an Extreme Heat Problem

DeArbea Walker, Insider, August 28, 2023

For years, Minneapolis was seen as a progressive haven in the Midwest, with Democrats having long controlled the city. But as the 2020 murder of George Floyd laid bare, the Minnesota capital’s reputation had largely belied the conditions on the ground. The city ranks near the bottom for racial equality: Black families earn less than half of what white families make, and the Black incarceration rate is 11 times that of white residents.

The city is also one of the worst perpetrators of environmental racism.

2020 study by the data firm CAPA Strategies found Minneapolis among the three US cities with the largest surface-temperature differences between formerly redlined and non-redlined neighborhoods. At its most extreme, that difference was nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit.


Black people had begun to come to Minneapolis in the early 20th century during the Great Migration. They were quickly pushed into these redlined areas. Because of this, Black residents at the time primarily resided in the north side and in certain pockets of the south side of the city, reinforcing housing segregation.

Today, the north and south sides are cut off from the rest of the downtown area by major highways and interstates. In 1960, the neighborhoods where highways were routed were home to 82% of the city’s Black residents. This has resulted in higher rates of polluted air, water, and asthma for those communities.

Industrial manufacturing and chemical plants were also built in those areas, which also tended to lack tree canopies and green spaces. {snip}


In 2013, the city adopted a 47-page environmental road map that had high ambitions to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Called the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, it sought to achieve that objective through energy-efficient homes and businesses, affordable carbon-free buildings, 10% of electricity from local renewable resources, grants for small businesses working toward the plan’s objectives, and new green jobs.

Organizers, however, say there was a major problem. The plan didn’t detail a timeline, funding streams, or labor protections for jobs created by the plan. Nilsen also wanted the city to ensure those jobs would be accessible to lower-income, undocumented, and formerly incarcerated people.

After years of outcry from activists, the city council submitted a new draft of a 10-year plan, titled the Minneapolis Climate Equity Plan, soliciting public comments. The new plan put environmental justice at the forefront; in a letter that introduces the document, Mayor Jacob Frey wrote that the new plan “is about prioritizing low income and BIPOC communities first.” MN350 launched its own campaign, ensuring that community members had the opportunity to give their thoughts.


The new plan includes a comprehensive timeline, union protections for new jobs, as well as $8 million to $10 million in annual funding. Nilsen said they were also able to include explicit language guaranteeing that the city wouldn’t add an additional tax burden on lower-income residents to make up for the funding shortfall.

Under the new plan, green spaces will be prioritized in the north and south sides of Minneapolis, air-quality monitors will be implemented to track and reduce pollution, green energy sources will be emphasized, and all homes will be insulated and weatherized.