In March’s Minnesota Housing board meeting the agency introduced new staff, commented on the legislative session, made changes to housing programs, and provided an update on homelessness in Minnesota. Commissioner Tingerthal began by offering support for the governor’s supplemental budget and its initiative to address racial inequities in Minnesota. Agency staff informed the board on altered scoring procedures for the Community Impact Fund and approved the extension of a rental rehab deferred loan pilot. Cathy ten Broeke, the state Director to Prevent and End Homelessness, updated the board on new homelessness trends and commented on the new two year action plan. Read below for further detail.
Updates from the Legislative Session
In her opening remarks, Commissioner Tingerthal expressed excitement over the governor’s supplemental budget. She said that the $5 million appropriation for downpayment assistance would be a timely investment given it would enable lower income families to achieve home ownership in the current low interest environment. This proposal, $1 million in homeownership capacity funds and coupled with a $250,000 appropriation to create a guarantee fund for landlords who rent to tenants with blemished records were all part of the governor’s equity package. Tingerthal added that legislative hearings on these proposals have gone well.
Also related to the legislative session, Tingerthal informed the board that in the coming week a new state tax credit proposal would likely be introduced. It would piggyback on the federal 4% housing tax credit and would provide gap financing to assist with using this federal resource.
Introductions to the Board
Tingerthal introduced the Agency’s new chief financial officer, Kevin Carpenter. Carpenter comes to Minnesota Housing from the City of Minneapolis where he had served in a similar capacity over the previous five years. Tingerthal also introduced Fatima Moore, legislative intern, and a participant in the Citizens League program to bring people of color to the Capitol. Katherine Teiken was introduced as the “energy fellow,” who will help the Agency foster relationships between utilities and the development community.
Changes to Community Impact Fund
In an edit to the scoring for the Community Impact Fund (Challenge funds for homeownership) board chair John DeCramer asked whether the Agency was making it hard for new groups to participate in the program, and whether mentoring was available. Staff responded that part of the application process asks for identification of implementation partners and this is a route for new organizations to become familiar with the program.
Rental Rehab Deferred Loan Pilot
The board approved an extension of the Rental Rehab Deferred Loan pilot. This program is a funding source for owners of smaller Greater Minnesota rental properties needing repairs. The board also approved funding for eight program model applications and one project specific applications. One new administrator was admitted to the program, Headwaters Regional Development Commission in Bemidji. Staff will provide the board an analysis of the program in May of 2017.
Community Outreach and the Consolidated Action Plan
In approving the Consolidated Action Plan, which identifies the use of federal housing and community development resources administered by the state, new board member Terri Thao asked about the effectiveness of citizen engagement initiatives to reach impacted communities. Staff responded that the Agency was looking at community outreach alternatives, including tools like YouTube videos, which would be employed this summer as part of the outreach connected with the draft 2017 Affordable Housing Plan.
Update on Homelessness Action Plan
Cathy ten Broeke the state’s Director to Prevent and End Homelessness provided an update on the new two-year Action Plan and the current status of homelessness in Minnesota. She said that the state recently experienced declines in homelessness particularly for families with children. She added that the 2016 Point in Time data would be out in the next couple of weeks. Tingerthal said that all the commissioners on the state council had embraced the goals; they acknowledged that stable housing is the place to start before other goals can be met. Included in the goals for which the Agency is responsible are 5,000 new housing opportunities by 2020 for those at-risk of homelessness.
Commissioner Tingerthal said while the current trends in homelessness are good, the tight rental market, with associated rising rents, is a cause for concern. Board member Thao asked about tracking those that are doubled up or couch hopping. ten Broeke said that this phenomenon was hard to track though staff knew that it was a significant way that homelessness manifests in Greater Minnesota and among households of color. Board member Stephanie Klinzing said that the perception now is that government is there to provide housing to homeless families, but the best that her community can do is provide two weeks in a motel.