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MHP is proud to recognize these champions with the 2021 Legislative Leader Award. These legislators stood out as housing champions, by advancing MHP’s policy initiatives and drawing attention to affordable housing as an issue of public importance, delivering persuasive arguments and taking action for impactful policies and investments. All of our awardees demonstrated a deep resolve to make a difference for Minnesotans. 

MHP 2021 Legislative Leaders  

Senator Carla Nelson (R-26, Rochester) 

As Chief Author of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit, Sen. Carla Nelson played an integral role in establishing and investing in a historic, new program. The tax credit is the largest new investment to a development program in over a decade.  Sen. Nelson went above and beyond to build momentum and support among legislator colleagues. In committee she developed a thoughtful and persuasive argument for establishing a mechanism to support public-private partnerships to support housing development. Her leadership in the Legislature and her willingness to engage with MHP and MHP’s stakeholders displayed a desire to take action to solve affordable housing challenges. Sen. Nelson’s partnership with MHP over the last four years on the Affordable Housing Tax Credit was a long-term, consistent contribution to preserving and expanding resources that lead to safe, stable and affordable housing. 

Representative Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-64A, St. Paul) 

Throughout the 2021 Legislative Session Representative Kaohly Her supported bills and positions that were consistent with MHP’s policy agenda. As Chief Author of the Source of Income Protections bill she helped promote equity in housing policy solutions. She developed a thoughtful and persuasive argument to shape the public narrative around the importance of protecting prospective renter households from discrimination. In carrying this important piece of legislation, she exposed issues and educated legislator colleagues. Throughout session, Rep. Her worked closely with MHP and MHP’s partners to strategize and build momentum for affordable housing solutions. In the Housing, Judiciary, and Taxes Committees she consistently spoke up in support of resources and policies that lead to safe, stable and affordable housing. Representative Her also chief authored the base rate increase to Housing Supports, which was passed into law this year.  

MHP 2021 Legislative Rising Star 

Representative Esther Agbaje (DFL-59B, Minneapolis) 

Representative Agbaje championed efforts to prevent displacement and preserve home by chief authoring legislation to fund the acquisition and rehabilitation of Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH). Throughout session, Rep. Agbaje used her position on the Housing, Capital Investments, and Taxes Committees to advance policies and funding that support lowest-income households. Her public questions, comments, and testimony advanced housing issues and persuaded lawmakers colleagues. Rep. Agbaje was committed to working with community partners and advocates, including MHP.  

When families pay too much for rent, they’re forced to sacrifice to make ends meet — cutting back at the grocery store or delaying a trip to the doctor. Released last week, the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out of Reach 2021 report highlights state and county trends to reveal that households in every corner of Minnesota are spending thousands of dollars more than they can afford each year just to pay the rent for a modest apartment. Now more than ever, as evidenced by the rippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, housing security is central to overall health and well-being.

The annual Out of Reach report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition provides rental affordability data for every state, metro area, and county in the US.

Some Minnesota highlights from the 2021 report include:

  • The Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota is $1,133. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $3,775 monthly or $45,301 annually.
  • From 2020 to 2021, the amount a renter household needs to earn to afford a modest apartment (the state "housing wage") increased by 6 percent.
  • The lowest income households — those earning 30 percent or less of area median income — can afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in only seventeen of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
  • Minnesota ranks #23 in the nation for the highest wages required to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment: The wage required to afford a modest two- bedroom apartment in Minnesota is the most expensive in the Midwest, including $3.89 higher than the Wisconsin housing wage, and $5.17 higher than North Dakota’s housing wage.  

When rent is out of reach for those who are fully employed, our communities pay the price. We cannot afford to let housing costs continue to climb, while wages remain stagnant. Currently, nearly 30 percent of Minnesota residents — more than 620,700 households — live in a rental unit. 

"HOUSING WAGE" — Wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment

  • The housing wage represents what Minnesota workers need to earn to afford rent without paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. In 2021, a Minnesotan would need to earn an annual income of $45,301 to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Yet, the median renter in Minnesota earns approximately $41,414 -- or is short by $3,887 annually. With the housing wage at $21.78 per hour for a modest two-bedroom apartment and $17.40 for a modest one-bedroom apartment, rent is out of reach for workers in the majority of Minnesota counties. 
  • Compared to the state average of $21.78, the housing wage in non-metro areas is more than $7 less per hour at $14.59 for a two-bedroom apartment.
  • The highest housing wage in the state is located in the counties within the greater Minneapolis 5/ St. Paul metro area, at $25.15 per hour — or earning an annual salary of $52,320 — to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

Rent affordable to median-income renter

  • For the median-income renter household in Minnesota, an affordable rent — one that does not exceed 30 percent of a household’s monthly income — is $1,035 per month.
  • Median-income renters in Washington County can afford the highest rent in the state at $1,297 per month. 
  • Median-income renters in Itasca County can only afford $595 per month, the lowest level in the state. 
  • In contrast to the $1,035 affordable to the median-income renter at the statewide level, the median-income renter household in non-metro Minnesota can afford far less — just $799 per month. 

What lowest income Minnesotans can afford (30% AMI)

  • The lowest income households in Minnesota can afford just $704 per month in rent. Statewide, there is a $201 monthly gap between what a household at 30 percent of area median income earns and what would be required to pay for a modest one-bedroom apartment. Even efficiencies are out of reach; a household earning 30 percent of AMI would need to earn $936 more per year to afford a modest zero-bedroom apartment.
  • An individual earning 30 percent of area median income can afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in only seventeen of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment is too expensive for a household earning 30 percent of the area median income in all of the major metro areas in the state. The Minneapolis / St. Paul metro area contains the highest gap between fair market rent and what households earning under 30 percent of AMI can afford; these households would need to earn approximately $3,204 more per year to afford fair market rent. 

Hours at minimum wage to afford 1 bedroom apartment

  • A minimum wage earner in Minnesota must work more than 43 hours a week in every county in the state to be able to afford rent for a one-bedroom apartment. Statewide, a one-bedroom apartment costs $381 more per month, or $4,572 annually, than a minimum wage earner can afford.
  • In non-metro areas, minimum wage workers must work 45 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment, and 58 hours per week for a two-bedroom. 
  • Minimum wage workers in the Twin Cities metropolitan area must work 80 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and 100 hours per week for a two-bedroom — the highest number of hours for major metropolitan areas in the state. This represents an increase in an additional 5-7 hours per week needed from just last year.


Out of Reach data is available for every county and metro area in the country. Click here to see how Minnesota counties compare with each other.

MHP would like to thank our 2021 Capitol Pathways intern, Hibo Ali! Hibo was a great addition to our policy team during this legislative session. She attended committee hearings, connected with legislators, and contributed to MHP's newsletter, all while providing research and analysis on source of income discrimination in Minnesota. 

This is the second year that MHP has hosted a Capitol Pathways intern, a program of the Citizen's League. Thank you, Hibo, for all of your hard work. We can't wait to see what's next for you! Read more about Hibo’s experience at MHP.

Reflections by Hibo Ali, MHP's Capitol Pathways intern for 2021:

While interning with MHP this legislative session, I had the wonderful opportunity to get hands-on learning in the policy space. While housing has been a policy interest of mine for a while, I’m incredibly glad I was placed with MHP through the Capitol Pathways Program in order to better familiarize myself with housing in Minnesota. Prior to my internship, I wasn’t that familiar with the legislative process in Minnesota. Being able to attend meetings with lawmakers and community leaders has allowed me to gain knowledge about the policy world that I wouldn’t be able to get from my political science coursework.

A few highlights of my internship experience include writing reports on MHP’s biweekly legislative calls for MHP Connect, attending and speaking at lobbying meetings, and conducting informational interviews. My most notable experience was researching and reporting my findings on source of income discrimination in Minnesota. This report in the form of a policy memorandum was the culmination of 3 months of research. Presenting my findings to the policy team during my last week here was a great way to end my internship experience.

The opportunities I was given to develop my writing and speaking abilities through these various methods will undoubtedly help me in the future. This internship was an invaluable learning experience for me because it gave me a huge amount of independence as well as responsibility. I’m confident that my overall internship experience will help prepare me for the working world once I graduate. Thank you, MHP!

On Friday, June 25th MHP hosted a webinar on our latest edition of MHP’s research series, Market Watch: Northland Region. The report tracks key trends in the unsubsidized multifamily rental markets across the state. The seventh report of the series, Market Watch: Northland Region, analyzes data for 6,449 unsubsidized rental units in properties with four or more units in Minnesota’s Northland Region. 

Date: Jun. 25, 2021
Gabriela Norton of MHP, Daryl Olson of the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), Pam Kramer of LISC Duluth and Isaac Meyer of KOOTASCA Community Action
The webinar featured an overview of Northland NOAH data and findings by report author Gabriela Norton, MHP's Research Manager, and a community perspectives panel of housing advocates from the Northland/Arrowhead region featuring Daryl Olson of the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), Pam Kramer of LISC Duluth and Isaac Meyer of KOOTASCA Community Action. Learn more about the panelists.

Presentation slides (PDF): here, Recording: here, Meeting chat (PDF): here