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Report by Hibo Ali, MHP's Capitol Pathways intern for 2021. 

As part of Minnesota Housing Partnership’s (MHP) latest State and Legislative Update Series on March 19, 2021, attendees heard from Representative Paul Marquart (DFL, 4B), Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) Commissioner Jennifer Ho, and Executive Director of HOME Line, Eric Hauge.

State Update

Chair of the House Taxes Committee, Rep. Paul Marquart, joined MHP to discuss a few key taxes issues this legislative session and beyond. MHFA Commissioner, Jennifer Ho, provided important housing updates from Minnesota Housing.

Rep. Marquart emphasized that the biggest focus in the Taxes Committee and the House more generally is “the response, the recovery, and the rebuilding” of communities and businesses most affected by COVID-19. Citing MHP’s recently published State of the State’s Housing report, Rep. Marquart explained that pertinent problems facing Minnesotans like the racial homeownership disparity, the housing cost burden, and many more are issues the legislature “has to solve.” Solutions to these issues, Rep. Marquart pointed out, can be found through affordable housing efforts and decreasing income inequality in the state.

Commissioner Ho described this period of the legislative session as “game time” at the capitol. Going over Minnesota Housing’s implementation of the Emergency Rental Assistance program in Minnesota, Commissioner Ho explained that Minnesota Housing is getting ready to launch its program “very soon”. Improving upon a few missteps from last year’s COVID-19 housing assistance program, Minnesota Housing is determined to launching the program when it is fully ready and capable of handling the thousands of applications expected. Regarding the newly signed American Rescue Plan Act, Commissioner Ho discussed the many housing priorities laid out in the Act including increased funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program, relief for homeowners, utility support, and much more.

Community Perspective

MHP was joined by HOME Line’s Executive Director, Eric Hauge, to provide an overview of HOME Line’s crucial work in the state.

HOME Line is a Minnesota non-profit that offers free, confidential legal advice to renters throughout the state. Along with this, HOME Line does policy advocacy work and hosts landlord-tenant education programs. Hauge explained that evictions are one of the most common topics tenants bring to HOME Line. Now that most evictions and lease terminations have been suspended due to COVID-19, Hauge explained that this has significantly helped BIPOC and low-income households and helped reduce COVID-19 cases overall in the state. Finally, on the topic of an eviction moratorium off-ramp, Hauge outlined HOME Line’s opposition to SF1470 and support for HF12; these are two competing proposals in the two chambers of the legislature that offer different ways to go about the inevitable off-ramp.