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At Minnesota Housing Partnership’s Investors Council virtual breakfast meeting on March 25, 2021, Anne Mavity, Executive Director of MHP, welcomed a dynamic presentation and panel to address the topic of “Prosperity for All: The Role of Housing.” Specifically, Mavity asked ”How do we move beyond business as usual towards more bold and equitable outcomes, to create a more equitable housing market?”

We are in a moment of enormous challenges, but also in a moment of enormous opportunity,” she said.

Each speaker addressed the opportunity and the question posed by Mavity. Introductory remarks were provided by Minnesota Housing Commissioner, Jennifer Ho. A keynote address was provided by Gary Cunningham, President & CEO of Prosperity Now and he was then joined by panelists Vihar Sheth, Senior Vice President & Director of Business Development – Equity & Affordable Housing for U.S. Bank and Nawal Noor, Founder & CEO of Noor Companies.

Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho started by sharing the bold and equitable solutions generated by State of Minnesota and the Federal Government. The Agency has worked on the Qualified Allocation Plan by shifting points and updating language, and they have seen it play out by giving more points to applications submitted by black, indigenous, and people of color, as well as women. Minnesota Housing has brought in equity experts for their Leadership team to help them think about how they do the work and ask important questions about equity as they design new stimulus programs.

The Agency also has policy bills on the table around Tenants Rights, which Commissioner Ho described as, “kind of a new space for the Agency,” with the firm belief that there should not be discrimination based on source of income and that there should be a slightly longer process for evictions. Moreover, there should be time given to people to access the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Finally, at the federal level, Commissioner Ho is optimistic about the position of Senator Tina Smith as the Chair of a key Senate Banking Subcommittee that oversees important aspects of the nation’s housing, transportation and community development policies.

Next, Mavity introduced keynote speaker, Gary Cunningham, President & CEO of Prosperity Now, located in Washington, D.C. He provided the audience with grounding in the lens of racial homeownership disparities and cost-burden disparity statistics, as well as the importance of homeownership in an asset building framework. He also proposed some bold solutions and policy recommendations to expand affordable housing:

  • Reinstate the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule
  • Expand Housing Choice Vouchers to Fully Meet the Need
  • Expand and Leverage Existing Public Resources to Further Encourage the Development of Affordable Housing
  • Reform Existing Upside-down Housing Tax Incentives

Cunningham also highlighted that Prosperity Now has specific federal policy proposals that will shift the current housing policy that would make housing a right, not just a privilege. Prosperity Now’s Pathway to Housing for All includes a pathway from supporting renters to supporting homeownership.

  • Phase 1: Low-Income Renters’ Credit
  • Phase 2: Downpayment-Builder Matched Savings Program
  • Phase 3: First-Timer Homeowners’ Credit
  • Phase 4: Homeowners Post-Purchase Tax Credit

Next, in response to Cunningham’s remarks, Vihar Sheth, Senior Vice President & Director of Business Development – Equity & Affordable Housing at U.S. Bank, provided an update on his work and the Bank’s bold solutions. Specifically, his team has been trying to re-orient business through an anti-racist lens based on a racial equity agenda they have recently developed.

Nawal Noor, Founder & CEO of Noor Companies, then delivered robust commentary on her background in the corporate arena and the affordable housing space, as well as her bold equity solutions.

Noor said that from her corporate background she learned the importance of action versus solely talking about the challenges of housing disparities.

It takes partnerships and transparency,” Noor said.

She applauded Minnesota Housing for their work in revising their Qualified Allocation Plan. Noor also suggested that construction innovation needs to take place in terms of “partnerships between architects, funders, and builders in order to eliminate inefficiencies in the design, material selection, training, constructability of the project, and workforce development.”

“Those partnerships are so crucial to be able to change the trajectory of where we are today.”

The panel ended with a question distilled by Mavity from comments and questions posed by the Zoom audience of more 100 people.

What are the tools, legislation, and structural changes that would be most impactful in moving the ball forward?” one audience member asked.

Vihar Sheth responded that the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program has become the “core element” of trying to solve all of our issues. He continued by saying that instead of throwing more resources at the program, we need to design modern programs to address old and new issues. Cunningham answered the question by stating that we need to re-imagine and re-design the Community Reinvestment Act and to think bigger and bolder about the solutions.

Cunningham closed by saying that, “Solutions that we had in the past won’t address the problems that we have today.”

To be part of these dynamic conversations, become a contributor or renew your contribution in the MHP Investors Council today!

Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) has released its third edition of State of the State’s Housing. The 80-page report shows that more than a quarter of Minnesota families pay more than they can afford for housing — and that number is growing. In addition to spotlighting key trends across Minnesota’s 87 counties, like the gap between the costs of housing and the salaries of in-demand jobs, the report also ranks counties on benchmarks like renter cost burden and showcases issues like aging housing stock with dynamic maps. The report also shares stories from communities collaborating to tackle local needs.

Key findings include:

  • More affordable housing needed. In Minnesota, there is critical need for housing particularly for extremely low-income renters, or renter households that earn at or under 30% of area median income (AMI). There are approximately 169,585 renter households in the state fall into this category; yet, there are only 64,238 affordable and available units at this income level across the state. This leaves a gap of 105,347 units needed for extremely low-income renters.
  • Homeownership disparities persist. Racial disparities in Minnesota are among the worst in the nation. While 77 percent of all white households own their home, 60 percent of Asian, 50 percent of Hispanic, 49 percent of Native American, and just 25 percent of Black households own their homes.
  • Housing costs are increasing. Housing costs continue to increase disproportionately to income. Between 2000 and 2019, the median renter income in Minnesota decreased by 1 percent, yet the median gross rent for the state increased by 14 percent.
  • Cost burden disparities magnified. The cost-burden disparity for renters and homeowners of color is stark. In Minnesota, 44 percent of white renters are cost burdened; in contrast, 58 percent of Black renters — 82,364 renter households — pay more than they can afford on housing.
  • Wages are not keeping up with housing costs. Of the top five in-demand jobs in the state, three do not earn enough for quality housing to be affordable. Relatively low-earning positions central to the healthcare industry, particularly home health and personal care aides and nursing assistants, are expected to see some of the largest increases in demand over the next ten years.

“MHP’s State of the State’s Housing Report 2021 shows that Minnesota has work to do to ensure access to affordable housing for all our neighbors. We have seen how essential housing is to maintaining health, to supporting education for our children, to driving economic growth for our businesses, yet we continue to fall behind in addressing the significant and increasing gaps between housing costs and incomes. This impacts every sector, impacts every family, impacts every region across our state,” said Anne Mavity, Executive Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership. “Our report also highlights how these gaps in housing affordability are particularly and inequitably impacting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), Minnesotans at the lowest incomes.”

The full report can be accessed at www.mhponline.org/research

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.

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

MHP hosted its fifth State and Federal Legislative Update Series of the year on March 5, 2021. MHP heard from Senator Zach Duckworth (R, 58), Representative Michael Howard (DFL, 50A), Ben Passer of Fresh Energy, and Metric Giles of Community Stabilization Project.

State Update

Vice Chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee, Rep. Michael Howard, and Vice Chair of the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee, Sen. Zach Duckworth, discussed housing priorities for this legislative session and challenges they will face in the coming weeks.

Rep. Howard emphasized the importance of housing security and how this past year has made housing an especially pertinent policy area. Rep. Howard explained that housing is at the center of many different areas including health, economic security, racial disparities, etc. Rep. Howard explained that many challenging decisions will have to be made regarding the projected state surplus, but resources and attention should be directed toward individuals and small businesses that have been most impacted by COVID-19. Rep. Howard discussed that there are many needs within housing that must be addressed including investing in manufactured home park communities, investing in naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), and propping up homeownership. Because the needs in housing are so great and competition between these areas may arise, it is important that as housing advocates we advocate for “outside-the-box thinking and investing”, said Rep. Howard.

Sen. Duckworth, a newly elected member of the Minnesota Senate, discussed how critical housing policy is on “both sides of the aisle” and echoed many of Rep. Howard’s points. Sen. Duckworth explained that the surplus, while great, will have “competing interests” and housing is still certainly one of the many critical needs that should be addressed with this surplus. Addressing the needs of manufactured home park communities, propping up homeownership, and keeping rents more affordable are all included in Sen. Duckworth’s housing priorities this session.

Community Perspective

Lead director of the Energy Access and Equity division of Fresh Energy, Ben Passer, and Director of Community Stabilization Project (CSP), Metric Giles, joined MHP to discuss equity in energy and housing policy formation.

Passer provided us with an overview of the Minnesota Multifamily Affordable Housing Network (MMAHEN) and its work centering equity in energy and housing policy. Passer discussed how energy efficiency in residential properties is a win-win that benefits both renters and property owners. Passer also drew the connections of energy efficiency to “increased health and comfort, reducing potential medical expenses, and reducing costly tenant turnover”. Additionally, building owners benefit from lower maintenance costs as a result of energy efficiency in under-resourced households and multifamily housing. Finally, Passer emphasized Fresh Energy’s commitment to encouraging deeper energy efficiency for all and engaging with communities facing these barriers.

Giles gave an overview of CSP’s work and discussed the need for race equity in policy formation. Giles first touched on the wide racial homeownership gap in the state of Minnesota. Giles explained that CSP’s work centers on stabilizing people through “the relationship of renters and property owners”; they do this work through educating renters of their rights and responsibilities. CSP also actively engages with property owners to address the barriers they face renting out their units. Finally, Giles explained that racial equity can only be achieved through justice, and “justice means that we have policies that will provide opportunities for everyone”.