For the September meeting of the Minnesota Housing Board, the main agenda item was final approval of the 2014 Affordable Housing Plan. Based on public comments submitted, the plan now leaves open the possibility of
Agency intervention to prevent the loss of Section 8 vouchers. Also discussed in the meeting were the Community and Housing Dialogue in Worthington and procedural changes to the Agency's Rehab Loan and Emergency and Accessibility Loan Programs.
2014 Affordable Housing Plan Approved, with Section 8 Vouchers in Mind
The primary agenda item this month was the 2014 Affordable Housing Plan (AHP) which the board adopted without amendment. Commissioner Tingerthal said that the only substantive change as a result of comments received by the Agency on the draft AHP concerned possible intervention to lessen the loss in Minnesota of Section 8 vouchers.
The voucher comment submitted by MHP and other advocacy groups suggested that a one-time state investment in Section 8 vouchers would maintain the allocation level of vouchers in Minnesota; a level that otherwise
could be reduced as a result of recent federal budget cuts. (HUD authorizes voucher levels for a year based on the number of vouchers used in the prior year; therefore a reduction in use of vouchers in any one year will likely ratchet down voucher levels in subsequent years.) The AHP as adopted reads that the Agency will investigate how potential Agency investments in housing vouchers may impact future federal funding, how the investment could be administered, and what expectations/precedents might be created, should this type of investment be made. The Agency will also explore alternative ways to address the loss of Section 8 vouchers, such as funding additional rental assistance under the Housing Trust Fund. Additionally, the Agency will continue to encourage Minnesota's congressional delegation to work to preserve funding for rental assistance.
Board member Gloria Bostrom suggested, and Commissioner Tingerthal agreed, that the Agency would get back to those who submitted comments to inform them of the outcome of the 2014 AHP. In response to a couple
of comments that the review time was too short, staff stated that the Agency will seek comments on the current plan in May or June of 2014 and use that input while planning the 2015 AHP.
Community and Housing Dialogue in Worthington
Commissioner Tingerthal reported to the board on the early September Community and Housing Dialogue that the Agency co-hosted with the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund and USDA Rural Development. About 70 attended the event held in the city of Worthington. Tingerthal said that workforce housing was a major concern in the region, particularly due to the expansion of the Jackson plant of AGCO, a Georgia headquartered manufacturer of large farm equipment.
Changes to Rehab Loan and Emergency and Accessibility Loan Programs
In other business, the board adopted changes to procedural manuals for the Rehab Loan Program and the Emergency and Accessibility Loan Program. Commissioner Tingerthal said that the prior guidelines in some cases
actually required people to borrow more than they wanted because so many types of repair were mandated under multiple funding sources. Now, with the programs being funded through flexible state appropriations, fewer types of repairs are required. The manuals were updated to reflect that change as well as some clarification around eligible improvements. Agency staff said that, moving forward, they will look to further leverage the Agency repair program loans with funding from the Department of Health, DEED, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and USDA.