The 2014 legislative session might be well behind us. But this year's short session brought huge achievements for housing, and we wanted to provide a recap. The most notable accomplishment of the session was hard to miss: passage of a full $100 million in bonds for affordable housing in the Capitol Investment Bill. The Legislature also approved several other bills in 2014 to address pressing housing issues in the state, such as a workforce housing in Greater Minnesota, disparities in homeownership between households of color and white households, and others.
When the governor signed the omnibus capital investment (bonding) bill on May 16, he signed into law the single largest bonding investment in housing in Minnesota history.
- The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency received the full $100 million in bonds for affordable housing, with $20 million in general obligation (GO) bonds for public housing rehabilitation and $80 million in housing infrastructure bonds (HIB). This effort was made possible with the strong support of Chair Alice Hausman, Chair Leroy Stumpf, and Minnesota Housing, not to mention the thousands of people who participated in the Homes for All Alliance. Applications for the first-round of bonds were due in June and will be awarded in October.
- The Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul received a $6 million appropriation for design and/or renovation of this facility, which serves homeless people. $6 million represents a small portion of the full amount sought by Catholic Charities to renovate and expand the Dorothy Day Center.
- Harriet Tubman Center East in Maplewood received $720,000 to build an additional 36 shelter rooms for victims of trafficking, exploitation, and other forms of trauma.
See HF 2490/SF 2605 (Hausman/Stumpf) for more info.
Taxes: Workforce Housing and Renters' Credit
The omnibus supplemental tax bill, HF 3167/ SF 2726 (Lenczewski/Skoe), led to two important outcomes for housing.
In Northwest Minnesota, rural communities are struggling to attract developers to build rental housing units, despite extremely low rental vacancy rates and high demand for housing options. Two million dollars was appropriated to Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for a pilot workforce housing grant for Roseau and Pennington Counties.
- These grants will go toward the construction of market rate housing units;
- Projects may only receive $400,000 or 10% of the total project cost (whichever is lower)
The tax bill also included a one-time, 6% increase to the Property Tax Refund for Renters (Renters' Credit), an addition of $12.5 million to the program. This will result in an average increase in the renters' credit by roughly $40 (from $580 in 2012 to roughly $620 per household).
During even-numbered bonding years, the Legislature often makes budgetary additions in a supplemental budget. This year's supplemental appropriations bill included several changes to the biennial budget for housing passed in 2013.
For Minnesota Housing Finance Agency:
- $2.2 million was allocated in fiscal year 2015 from the general fund for up to two grants for housing projects in communities that have 1) low-vacancy rates and 2) education and training centers for jobs in natural resources or aviation maintenance fields or other occupations with anticipated significant job growth potential.
- $500,000 in existing funds was set-aside from the Challenge Program to create home-ownership opportunities for families with children with disabilities who have faced eviction because of the child's disability. If the funds are not expended by October 31, 2014, they will be available for any Challenge Program purpose.
- $250,000 was appropriated to conduct veteran housing-needs assessments throughout the state. Minnesota Housing can make grants of up to $50,000 each.
For Department of Human Services:
- $1 million was allocated for the Homeless Youth Act to create a homeless youth outreach program;
- $500,000 was budgeted for the Safe Harbor Initiative to raise awareness of and prevent sexual exploitation of youth.
See HF 3172/ SF 2785 (Carlson/Cohen) for more about the 2014 Supplemental Budget.
Victims of Violence and Homeownership Disparities
Fiinally, the bill called "Landlords and Tenants; Victims of Violence Remedies Established, and Housing Opportunities Made Equitable Pilot Project Established" bill, or HF 859/SF 771 (Clark/Hayden) was signed into law. This legislation:
- Clarifies protections for victims of domestic violence when they must leave a lease. It ensures that landlords receive compensation for rent and prevents landlords from evicting tenants because they are victims of domestic violence.
- Approves the Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOME) Pilot Project as a way to address the disparities in homeownership rates between households of color and white households. (Minnesota has the highest disparities in the country.) The new law authorizes Minnesota Housing to choose providers to assist homeowners in areas of financial education, training, case management, mending credit, homebuyer education, and foreclosure prevention/mitigation services. This bill does not include a budget for these activities.