Greg Russ of MPHA is Using Opportunity Atlas Mapping to Displace Public Housing Residents

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) has been actively engaged in an effort to privatize public housing and displace residents for over four years. Recently, MPHA Executive Director Greg Russ has been promoting something called the Opportunity Atlas, which, as we discuss below, will help him justify his dismantling of public housing and destruction of long-standing Black and Brown communities. The Opportunity Atlas is a mapping project that links poverty to the neighborhood in which someone grows up. You can view the Opportunity Atlas map here: Greg Russ plans to use this map in conjunction with his existing privatization schemes (RAD, Section 18 Demolition and Disposition) to move public housing residents and Section 8 voucher holders from their current, majority BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) neighborhoods to rich, white neighborhoods – places referred to as “areas of opportunity.”

The language of “opportunity” masks what is ultimately a project of gentrification, whose goal is to remove low-income BIPOC families from Minneapolis and into the suburbs to make way for development. The conclusions drawn by the Opportunity Atlas – that poverty is a result of living in the “wrong” neighborhood – ignore centuries of discrimination and exclusion faced by Black and Brown people, as well as structural inequality that is built into our economy. Rather than provide “opportunity”, moving people from their communities can have negative impacts on their lives and health.

The real goal of clearing low-income BIPOC families out of the city is not to help residents, but to serve developers and real estate interests. They will be able to profit off of land that was formerly undervalued due to the racism inherent in our system, because once BIPOC families have left, the land will gain value and can be developed to attract higher-income white residents. This will be facilitated by a new federal initiative called Opportunity Zones, which are designated census tracts that developers are encouraged, through tax breaks, to invest in. While ostensibly meant to spur investment in low-income communities, this program actually rewards developers for gentrifying them. Despite their similar names, Opportunity Zones and the Opportunity Atlas are different projects, but they will work in tandem to gentrify urban areas under the guise of helping low-income people. The Opportunity Atlas will provide justification for clearing people out of their neighborhoods, while the Opportunity Zones will encourage and give cover to developers swooping in and snatching up the land to flip it for profit.

Greg Russ and MPHA are helping to accelerate this process in Minneapolis by privatizing and dismantling public housing. They are doing so with the full backing and support of the Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council, who have ignored residents’ concerns and protests for over four years. This is yet another example of the City pushing the Trump administration’s xenophobic, anti-poor, pro-developer agenda on Minneapolis. We must continue to oppose public housing privatization and the larger plan of gentrification that it is part of.

You can read our full report on the Opportunity Atlas here on how it plans destroy public housing and gentrify Black and Brown neighborhoods: