Minnesota Housing Partnership Candidate Questionnaire (supported by Homes for All)
Candidate responses in italics.
Name: Ben Schirmers
City/Town: Sauk Centre
Legislative District: 12B
District Issues: How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?
We are seeing issues with low income housing.
Availability of Affordable Housing: More than 25% of households in Minnesota pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, meaning they must sacrifice in other areas like food and medicine to make ends meet. What steps will you take to encourage the production of more affordable homes?
Tax incentives to encourage the building of more low income housing.
Workers: A full-time minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in any county in Minnesota — and many of the fastest growing jobs are in low-wage industries. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what workers can afford and housing costs?
Income based rent is going to have to be the solution until something is done on the federal level to alleviate the gap between rich and poor workers.
Homelessness: A lack of affordable housing options is one of the top reasons for homelessness, for individuals or families. What will you do to end homelessness in Minnesota?
I think we can do this through tax incentives to build low income housing but we also need to recognize that small non profits are doing innovative things on their own particularly with veterans. We must be careful not regulate these small players out of existence
Seniors and children: More than half of senior renters and more than 1 in 4 senior homeowners pay more than they can afford for housing. Meanwhile, children without stable, affordable housing have lower educational and health outcomes. What will you do to ensure housing policy and resources support Minnesota's seniors and students?
I feel we must continue to ensure that programs for seniors stay strong. Social security benefits may very well be the last buffer for a senior to stay in an apt or small home. Its very common in my district for a senior to stay in a rural home which can be cheaper but can also have less access to basic necessities.
Racial Disparities: Minnesota's racial disparities in housing are among the worst in the nation, for renters and homeowners. For instance, 22 percent of Black households are homeowners, compared to 76 percent of white households. How will you reduce the racial homeownership gap and other disparities in housing for households of color?
We must continue to work on problems with structural racism which has lead to modern day segregation in parts of Minnesota.
Rental Stability: Rental assistance is proven to reduce homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding, but 75% of residents who qualify for rental assistance do not receive this limited resource. What will you do to expand access to housing assistance to every household that needs it?
I will partner with whomever has a good idea to fix this problem.
Funding: We cannot meet our growing, statewide housing needs without significant additional resources. Will you support a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?
I cannot necessarily support dedicated funding to any particular area because from a philosophical perspective I feel you shouldn't tie the hands of future legislatures. However I think I can support increased funding in this area if our state budget can allow for it.