During its January meeting, the board of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) discussed updates at the state legislature, the statewide Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing, modifications to the downpayment and closing cost assistance program, proposed amendments to the 2018 housing tax credit Qualified Allocation Plan, funding for the Minnesota City Participation Program and more.
In her report to the board, Commissioner Mary Tingerthal focused on activity at the legislature. First, she provided an update on the housing portion of the governor’s budget. In addition to putting forward the Agency’s base budget — approximately $100 million over the two-year biennium — the governor included one-time funding for two housing initiatives.
One housing initiative included in the governor’s budget is an $8 million proposal, “Homework Starts with Home,” to address housing instability of school children. It would be a collaborative effort with the Department of Education and enlist counties and school districts. Tingerthal added that the Heading Home Funders Collaborative pledged to raise an additional $1 million in private funds for the initiative.
The second proposal from the governor is included in his racial equity initiative. The Agency would receive $2 million in downpayment assistance and counseling funds to promote home ownership targeted for households of color.
Hello from the Capitol! We're only a few weeks into the legislative session, but with the unseasonably warm weather and fast pace at the Capitol, it feels later in the year. Last year’s bonding bill is being heard in the Senate this week and we're hustling from committees to meetings to make sure every elected official knows the importance of homes for all.
Building relationships: While few bills are moving yet, the Policy team has been hard at work setting up meetings and building the relationships we’ll need when things heat up. We’ve reached out to every new lawmaker and already had more than a dozen meetings. We’ve also sat down with some key leaders in the House and Senate. Over the next few weeks, we’ll shift our focus from education of freshman legislators to meeting with key committee members to advocate for the bonding bill.
Bonding bill update: There’s still no consensus on whether a bonding bill will pass this year. But after encouraging meetings on both sides of the aisle, we have no reason to be pessimistic — though we’ll need to push hard to make sure housing is a priority. The Homes for All coalition has secured Sen. Senjem to be the chief author of its bonding bill for $100 million and is working to secure a House sponsor. Sen. Senjem also has introduced SB 210, a bonding bill that includes $45 million for housing and is very similar to the compromise bonding bill from the end of the 2016 legislative session. This bill is being heard in the Senate Capital Investment committee this week and has bipartisan support. We're optimistic it will pass the Senate.
The 2017 state legislative session is underway, and MHP is back at the capitol. November’s election put Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, putting advocates on the defensive in some issue areas. But MHP’s policy team is optimistic.
Why? Because affordable housing is a bipartisan issue. Champions on both sides of the aisle recognize that where we live impacts everything. Having a safe, affordable place to call home is central to the health, education, and economic success of Minnesota families — in all corners of the state.
Already, MHP has been meeting with legislators, educating new lawmakers on the critical importance of housing and laying the groundwork for our 2017 policy agenda. Thus far, legislators from both sides of the aisle have receptive to our key priorities, including:
Appropriating $100 million in bonds, including $80 million for Housing Infrastructure Bonds and $20 million in General Obligation Bonds.
Passing a resolution that clarifies local jurisdictions’ authority to establish local housing trust funds (LHTF) — and passing legislation that encourages local jurisdictions to pool multiple funding sources, including private dollars, to fund an LHTF.
Bolstering and protecting Minnesota Housing’s Economic Development and HousingChallenge Fund.