In the midst of a busy budget year at the state capitol, affordable housing and homeless programs have gained strongbipartisan support with advocates across the spectrum teaming up to make their voices heard.
In order to support proven programs that stabilize families, prevent homelessness, and create workforce housing, Homes for All, a coalition of housing and homelessness advocates, agreed to promote $25 million each in state funding for Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) and Department of Human Services (DHS) programs. Homes for All is also seeking $50 million in housing bonds.
The hard work of advocates has paid off, and several housing and homeless bills have been sucessfully introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
MHFA appropriations bill
Representative Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview) introduced a bill (H.F. 1194) for $25 million in funds above the state's base budget for several important Minnesota Housing programs that serve low-income renters, homeowners, and homeless families. These programs include the Challenge Fund (financing for statewide affordable rental and ownership housing options), the Housing Trust Fund (rental assistance for previously homeless families and individuals), rehab loans for smaller rental properties and single family housing, as well as other programs. The House bill was referred to the Housing Finance and Policy Committee. Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-61) introduced a companion bill (S.F. 811) in the Senate, which was referred to the Environment, Economic Development, and Agriculture Division of the Finance Committee.
DHS appropriations bill
Representative Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) introduced a bill (H.F. 937) to fund $25 million for four DHS programs that serve Minnesotans who are homeless or at-risk of homeless, including youth. The House bill was referred to the Health and Human Services Finance Committee. Senator Greg Clausen (DFL-57) introduced a companion bill (S.F. 797) in the Senate, which was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Division of the Finance Committee.
A separate Homeless Youth Act funding bill was introduced by Representative Laurie Halverson and Senator Scott Dibble, and a separate Long-term Homeless Supportive Services bill was introduced by Representative Melissa Hortman and Senator Jeff Hayden. Funding for both the Homeless Youth Act and Long-term Homeless Supportive Services is part of the broader Homes for All legislative agenda and is included in the Laine/Clausen bills.
Representative Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) introduced a $50 million bonding bill (H.F. 1070) for housing and homeless programs, which was referred to the Capital Investment Committee. This bill funds two types of bonds: Housing Infrastructure Bonds ($35 million), which can be used to rehabilitate, stabilize, or construct privately owned affordable housing, preserve federally subsidized rental housing, and construct or rehabilitate supportive housing, and General Obligation (G.O.) bonds ($15 million), which can be used to preserve public housing. Senator Dan Sparks (DFL-27) introduced a companion bill (S.F. 960) in the Senate, which was referred to the Finance committee.
In the House, having Rep. Hausman, chair of the Capital Investment committee, as the chief author positions this bill well, although it is still unclear whether there will be a bonding bill during this budget year at the state capitol.
Upcoming hearings on Homes for All bills
- House Health and Human Services Finance Committee hearing on H.F. 937 at 10AM, Thursday, March 7
- Senate Health and Human Services Division hearing on S.F. 797 at 8:30AM on Tuesday, March 12
- House Housing Finance and Policy Committee hearing on H.F. 1194 at 12:30PM on Wednesday, March 13
In addition, there will be a hearing on HF 729, which is the Governor's jobs and economic development budget, on Tuesday, March 12 in the House Jobs & Economic Development Committee. This bill includes the Governor's budget for Minnesota Housing, which is lower than the Homes for All budget ask.
Our work is far from done to ensure adequate state funding, especially in a time of potential massive cuts to federal housing and homeless programs. The next step is to advocate for budget targets.
Committees are given budget "targets" by legislative leadership, which will determine how much money will be available to divvy up among programs. Targets high enough for meet the Homes for All budget requests are needed.
What can you do?
1. Call or email House and Senate Leadership and ask for budget targets high enough to meet the Homes for All budget request:
· Speaker of the House Paul Thissen: #651-296-5375;
· House Chair Ways & Means Lyn Carlson: #651-296-4255
· Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk: #651-296-8881
· Senate Chair Finance Committee, Dick Cohen: #651-296-5931
2. Call the Governor. Ask him to fully fund the Homes for All budget request of $25 million for affordable housing and $25 million for DHS homeless programs in his supplemental budget : #651-201-3400; #800-657-3717
3. Attend an upcoming Day on the Hill, including Community Development Day on the Hill, sponsored by MHP and Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers.
5. Follow legislation by using MHP's bill tracker.
Interested in staying up-to-date on homelessness in Minnesota? Be on the lookout for the most recent Wilder homeless data to be released on March 7, 2013, the same day as Homeless Day at the Hill.