Housing advocates across the state are busy educating voters and candidates about housing issues.
Housing as an issue is hitting home for more and more Minnesotans. Encampments during the COVID19 pandemic have put a spotlight on the need for affordable homes, shelters, and housing services. Many Minnesotans are filled with anxiety as eviction and foreclosure moratoriums come closer to expiring, and households with large housing debts wonder how they’ll keep their homes. Lawmakers, perhaps sensing this anxiety, approved the largest package of bonds for housing in the history of Minnesota ($100 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds and $16 million in general obligation bonds) during October’s special session.
Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) and Homes for All MN are busy at work this election season gathering responses to the 2020 Candidate Questionnaire on Housing Issues. The questionnaire was sent to all candidates for Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate. Candidate responses are available on the MHP website (www.mhponline.org/policy/advocacy/2020-candidate-questionnaire). Dozens of candidates from the three major parties (Democratic-Farmer-Laborer, Legalize Marijuana Now, and Republican) have responded, reflecting statewide interest in housing.
Homes for All MN members helped amplify the candidate questionnaire. Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless used their state-wide network to encourage responses. Habitat Minnesota has promoted the candidate questionnaire to its affiliates, volunteers and Habitat 500 bike ride participants. MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing) sent the candidate questionnaire to thousands and encouraged its chapter/regional leaders to ask candidates to complete the questionnaire. CommonBond Communities, which owns, manages, and develops affordable homes across the state, engaged its housing advocate volunteers in asking candidates to complete the questionnaire.
Housing partners utilized social media to encourage candidates to respond to the questionnaire, and highlighting candidate by name who have responded. To help make this quick and easy, MHP developed a promo-kit of pre-drafted content that could be cut and pasted into social media posts. MHP also hosted a twitter storm, with over twenty (20) participating organizations. As well, MHP organized a candidate engagement webinar to promote the questionnaire, with tips for non-partisan activities.
Housing advocates have been highly active in Minnesota in 2020, using a variety of initiatives to amplify the need for solutions to candidates and voters:
- Many housing advocacy organizations have increased their voter engagement activities, helping make the connection between voting and home. The New American Development Center, African Career Education & Resources (ACER), and Jewish Community Action are three grassroots housing advocacy organizations actively organizing voter registration and connecting residents to voting resources.
- African Career Education & Resources (ACER) canvassers have worked for months reaching residents with voter registration information along with housing assistance resources. Get out the vote efforts have included pairing free produce giveaways with voting information.
- Catholic Charities of St Paul and Minneapolis has been leading voter outreach for staff, residents and clients at all its program sites across the Twin Cities. For individuals experiencing homelessness, including those at Catholic Charities emergency shelters and opportunity centers, activities have included encouraging early registration, educating on options to vote early in person or on election day, and ensure individuals are available to vouch for anyone who’s registration and ballot is more likely to be challenged.
- Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity created a Candidate Conversation Guide, encouraging its thousands of volunteers and homeowners to speak with candidates about the importance of affordable homeownership and to “Vote for Home.”
- Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative hosted multiple candidate forums on housing issues and prepared a list of suggested questions for engaging candidates on housing, engaging their dozens of member congregations in housing advocacy.
- CommonBond Communities joined the NLIHC Housing Providers Council, increasing its efforts to assist residents to vote.
- Multi-sector housing advocacy partners, who work in other areas of advocacy in addition to housing, have also increased their electoral season engagement. The Arc Minnesota, a Homes for All MN member, has been the lead partner in Rev UP MN, a group of 22 organizations focused on disability advocacy. Activities have included a mailing of 50,000 postcards, social media campaign, and questionnaire for state legislative candidates on disability issues.