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Report by Hibo Ali, MHP's Capitol Pathways intern for 2021. 

As part of Minnesota Housing Partnership’s (MHP) latest State and Legislative Update Series on March 19, 2021, attendees heard from Representative Paul Marquart (DFL, 4B), Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) Commissioner Jennifer Ho, and Executive Director of HOME Line, Eric Hauge.

State Update

Chair of the House Taxes Committee, Rep. Paul Marquart, joined MHP to discuss a few key taxes issues this legislative session and beyond. MHFA Commissioner, Jennifer Ho, provided important housing updates from Minnesota Housing.

Rep. Marquart emphasized that the biggest focus in the Taxes Committee and the House more generally is “the response, the recovery, and the rebuilding” of communities and businesses most affected by COVID-19. Citing MHP’s recently published State of the State’s Housing report, Rep. Marquart explained that pertinent problems facing Minnesotans like the racial homeownership disparity, the housing cost burden, and many more are issues the legislature “has to solve.” Solutions to these issues, Rep. Marquart pointed out, can be found through affordable housing efforts and decreasing income inequality in the state.

Commissioner Ho described this period of the legislative session as “game time” at the capitol. Going over Minnesota Housing’s implementation of the Emergency Rental Assistance program in Minnesota, Commissioner Ho explained that Minnesota Housing is getting ready to launch its program “very soon”. Improving upon a few missteps from last year’s COVID-19 housing assistance program, Minnesota Housing is determined to launching the program when it is fully ready and capable of handling the thousands of applications expected. Regarding the newly signed American Rescue Plan Act, Commissioner Ho discussed the many housing priorities laid out in the Act including increased funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program, relief for homeowners, utility support, and much more.

Community Perspective

MHP was joined by HOME Line’s Executive Director, Eric Hauge, to provide an overview of HOME Line’s crucial work in the state.

HOME Line is a Minnesota non-profit that offers free, confidential legal advice to renters throughout the state. Along with this, HOME Line does policy advocacy work and hosts landlord-tenant education programs. Hauge explained that evictions are one of the most common topics tenants bring to HOME Line. Now that most evictions and lease terminations have been suspended due to COVID-19, Hauge explained that this has significantly helped BIPOC and low-income households and helped reduce COVID-19 cases overall in the state. Finally, on the topic of an eviction moratorium off-ramp, Hauge outlined HOME Line’s opposition to SF1470 and support for HF12; these are two competing proposals in the two chambers of the legislature that offer different ways to go about the inevitable off-ramp.

Report by Hibo Ali, MHP's Capitol Pathways intern for 2021. 

MHP hosted its fifth State and Federal Legislative Update Series of the year on March 5, 2021. MHP heard from Senator Zach Duckworth (R, 58), Representative Michael Howard (DFL, 50A), Ben Passer of Fresh Energy, and Metric Giles of Community Stabilization Project.

State Update

Vice Chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee, Rep. Michael Howard, and Vice Chair of the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee, Sen. Zach Duckworth, discussed housing priorities for this legislative session and challenges they will face in the coming weeks.

Rep. Howard emphasized the importance of housing security and how this past year has made housing an especially pertinent policy area. Rep. Howard explained that housing is at the center of many different areas including health, economic security, racial disparities, etc. Rep. Howard explained that many challenging decisions will have to be made regarding the projected state surplus, but resources and attention should be directed toward individuals and small businesses that have been most impacted by COVID-19. Rep. Howard discussed that there are many needs within housing that must be addressed including investing in manufactured home park communities, investing in naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), and propping up homeownership. Because the needs in housing are so great and competition between these areas may arise, it is important that as housing advocates we advocate for “outside-the-box thinking and investing”, said Rep. Howard.

Sen. Duckworth, a newly elected member of the Minnesota Senate, discussed how critical housing policy is on “both sides of the aisle” and echoed many of Rep. Howard’s points. Sen. Duckworth explained that the surplus, while great, will have “competing interests” and housing is still certainly one of the many critical needs that should be addressed with this surplus. Addressing the needs of manufactured home park communities, propping up homeownership, and keeping rents more affordable are all included in Sen. Duckworth’s housing priorities this session.

Community Perspective

Lead director of the Energy Access and Equity division of Fresh Energy, Ben Passer, and Director of Community Stabilization Project (CSP), Metric Giles, joined MHP to discuss equity in energy and housing policy formation.

Passer provided us with an overview of the Minnesota Multifamily Affordable Housing Network (MMAHEN) and its work centering equity in energy and housing policy. Passer discussed how energy efficiency in residential properties is a win-win that benefits both renters and property owners. Passer also drew the connections of energy efficiency to “increased health and comfort, reducing potential medical expenses, and reducing costly tenant turnover”. Additionally, building owners benefit from lower maintenance costs as a result of energy efficiency in under-resourced households and multifamily housing. Finally, Passer emphasized Fresh Energy’s commitment to encouraging deeper energy efficiency for all and engaging with communities facing these barriers.

Giles gave an overview of CSP’s work and discussed the need for race equity in policy formation. Giles first touched on the wide racial homeownership gap in the state of Minnesota. Giles explained that CSP’s work centers on stabilizing people through “the relationship of renters and property owners”; they do this work through educating renters of their rights and responsibilities. CSP also actively engages with property owners to address the barriers they face renting out their units. Finally, Giles explained that racial equity can only be achieved through justice, and “justice means that we have policies that will provide opportunities for everyone”.


Report by Hibo Ali, MHP's Capitol Pathways intern for 2021. 

As part of Minnesota Housing Partnership’s (MHP) fourth State and Legislative Update Series on February 19, 2021, attendees heard from US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN5), MN Representative Fue Lee (DFL-59A), and St. Paul Public Housing Authority’s (PHA) Executive Director, Jon Gutzmann.

Federal Update

Rep. Omar discussed what is currently underway at the US Capitol and what we can expect from the federal government in the coming months.

Rep. Omar shared her excitement of working on transformative housing policies this year with a united government. Some of the housing priorities the Representative is working on include rent and mortgage cancelation and calling for an acquisition fund (anti-gentrification fund). Additionally, Rep. Omar touched on housing priorities laid out in the new stimulus package. As part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, $30 billion will be allocated to rental and utility assistance –– $5 billion of which being earmarked to address homelessness.

Answering a few questions from the audience, Rep. Omar covered the inner workings of her proposed Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, discussed the stimulus package in more detail, and talked about a few anticipated infrastructure and energy bills (that include housing priorities).

State Update

For a state update, MHP heard from Chair of the House of Representative’s Capital Investment Committee, Rep. Lee.

As the legislative session is ramping up with bill hearings, Rep. Lee has been trying to find ways to address the housing crisis through the House Capital Investment Committee. Rep. Lee also mentioned that along with housing, his committee is prioritizing racial equity and climate impact. Rep. Lee emphasized the need for housing investments through bonding and made clear that the Governor’s housing infrastructure bonds proposal of $100 million is just “not enough”. Nevertheless, he is “optimistic and hopeful” that the legislature can work together to find a way to address the housing crisis in MN. Finally, Rep. Lee emphasized the importance of engaging legislators and made a call to action urging advocates to do just that in order for crucial housing policies to build momentum.

Community Perspective

Finally, MHP was joined by St. Paul PHA’s Executive Director, Jon Gutzmann, to discuss what is currently happening with public housing in St. Paul.

St. Paul Public Housing has 4,300 units of public housing and 4,900 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers; Jon explained that these affordable housing opportunities house 21,000 low-income folks in St. Paul. Jon also highlighted St. Paul’s PHA’s 30-year record of collecting 99% of the rents; this has changed with COVID-19 with there being about a 3.5% delinquency rate (as opposed to the normal ~0.5% delinquency rate). Finally, Jon said that he is looking forward to the aforementioned infrastructure bill that is expected to be the source for public housing capital.

Report by Hibo Ali, MHP's Capitol Pathways intern for 2021. 

MHP hosted its third State and Legislative Update Series of the year on February 5, 2021. MHP heard from Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) Commissioner Jennifer Ho, Senator Rich Draheim (R, 20), Dave Anderson of All Parks Alliance for Change (APAC), and Natividad Seefeld of Park Plaza Cooperative.

State Update
MHFA Commissioner Jennifer Ho and Chair of the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee, Senator Rich Draheim, joined MHP to talk the Governor’s budget, Senate Housing priorities, and more.

Commissioner Ho highlighted the significance of priorities laid out in the Governor’s Budget Proposal during COVID-19. Commissioner Ho emphasized that importance of making certain investments during COVID-19 in order to aid in economic recovery. She went on to call the budget the “COVID-19 recovery budget”. Commissioner Ho also noted the strong effect housing has on almost every other aspect of daily life (e.g., kids in schools); if housing is invested in early on or proactively, a lot less money and focus is spent in these other areas. Additionally, Commissioner Ho reiterated the point that low-income folks have undoubtedly been hit the hardest “both by the pandemic and the economic fallout” that ensued. Finally, when asked about the prospects of a source-of-income discrimination proposal, Commissioner Ho said she was “hopeful” but that it is still too early to bet on prospects.

Sen. Draheim, who currently chairs the Senate Housing and Finance Policy Committee, previously served on Governor Dayton’s Task Force on Housing. Sen. Draheim explained that while there are many intricacies of housing policy that range from topics of “homeownership to homelessness to everything in between,” there is a need to conceptualize housing policies a little more “outside the box.” Sen. Draheim then laid out his current housing priorities. His priorities include addressing the racial homeownership gap in Minnesota, finding an off-ramp for the eviction moratorium, figuring out a way to handle the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program, creating a pathway to homeownership, and addressing housing instability/homelessness.

Community Perspective
Executive Director of All Parks Alliance for Change (APAC), Dave Anderson, and president of Park Plaza Cooperative, Natividad Seefeld, joined MHP to discuss what is happening with manufactured housing in Minnesota.

Anderson highlighted the large role manufactured housing plays in providing affordable housing throughout the state. Anderson shared a few of APAC’s proposals this legislative session to combat some problems faced by manufactured home park residents. One of these proposals includes the need for resident opportunity to purchase––this includes a 60-day advance notice of intended park sales and negotiating with home park residents in good faith. Additionally,  Anderson emphasized the need for a proposal that ensures rent stabilization. Finally, Anderson spoke about the feasibility of these proposals as they are already in effect in a number of states.

Seefeld reiterated many of Dave’s points. Seefeld explained the significance of giving home park residents the opportunity to purchase. Seefeld pointed out that this was especially important in cases where homes are simply too old to move; this puts residents that aren’t given the opportunity to purchase the land beneath their home in a very tough position. Seefeld was glad to share that they successfully secured Rep. Connie Bernardy as an author to an opportunity to purchase bill that will undoubtedly help many Minnesotans.