Unemployment is down, housing construction is up, and home prices are rising, according to MHP's new 2x4 Report, released December 30. But these improvements are not spelling gains for all Minnesotans. Homelessness among families and children remains stubbornly high, the report found.
Data tracked in the 2x4 Report indicated that through the first few months of this school year, nearly 4,000 children and youth had been identified as homeless across several larger school districts, the highest number to date since data collection began for this report.
In addition, an average of 372 homeless families sought shelter each month in Hennepin County shelters between July and September of 2014. This number was the highest of any quarterly period since 2000, except for last year at this time.
Homelessness can have far-reaching effects, with emotional, physical, and financial consequences. Episodes of homelessness can severely affect school and job performance.
The 2x4 Report did find improvements across several topical housing areas. Home prices in most markets tracked are trending upwards, and building permits for both single family homes and apartment units are up since last year at this time. Mortgage delinquencies continue to fall.
But these gains are yet to extend to those most in need. High and rising rents, poor job quality, and racial disparities in employment are likely contributors to challenging conditions for lower income renters.
In the Twin Cities, rents have increased beyond the rate of inflation over the last four years, with their rise fueled by four years of vacancy rates below the 5% "balanced" mark. Statewide, the unemployment rate for white Minnesotans is far lower than for African-American and Latino workers.
The report is a reminder why MHP, in collaboration with over 100 organizations in the Homes for All alliance, will be seeking resources to address homelessness and expand housing options at the Minnesota legislature in 2015.
"The improved economy is providing welcome relief, but only for some," said Chip Halbach, Executive Director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership. “Making sure that Minnesota uses scarce resources wisely to keep people safe and stable and to create much-needed affordable housing will be the priority as we head into the 2015 Minnesota legislative session."
MHP’s 2x4 Report graphically depicts 2 sets of indicators for each of 4 key housing areas: the home ownership market, the rental market, homelessness, and the housing industry. The semi-annual report provides a concise overview of housing challenges facing Minnesota.
The 2x4 received media coverage in late December 2014 which can be viewed here.