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- Written by Andy Birkey
This session, MHP will use its resources and network to advocate lawmakers to increase investments in housing stability by adequately funding emergency and ongoing housing assistance programs; investing in programs that preserve existing affordable homes and add new units; and strengthening laws to support renters access affordable housing.
The COVID pandemic has exacerbated many households’ housings cost burden. Families who were already struggling to afford housing have found themselves’ in greater jeopardy of experiencing homelessness. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the impact that interventions like emergency housing assistance have had in keeping people in their homes. MHP fought hard to secure $100 million in COVID Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) funds. While the Federal government just invested $25 billion in rental assistance, we know the Minnesota Legislature has a role to play in helping households that will not qualify under the Federal program.
- Emergency Housing Assistance. MHP is working with State lawmakers to understand gaps in assistance provided by the latest round of Federal relief. We support additional investments to renters and homeowners to pay rents, mortgages, insurance payments, HOA fees, utilities and other housing related costs.
- Eviction Moratorium. MHP believes safe, stable and affordable housing is critical to public health. Therefore, MHP continues to support efforts to ensure every Minnesotan has a home in which they can safely adhere to government restrictions and recommendations. Additionally, MHP recognizes that Minnesotans experiencing job or income loss did so due to no fault of their own. The eviction moratorium, coupled with housing assistance has proven to keep households healthy and support students. In fact, research increasingly shows that areas with moratoriums have lower morbidity and mortality from COVID 19 than areas that do not.
- Bring it Home Campaign. The pandemic highlights the importance of comprehensive and permanent rental assistance program for all income qualifying Minnesotans. MHP supports this bold, visionary campaign.
- Manufactured Home Park Opportunity to Purchase and NOAH Acquisition. MHP supports strategies to help affordable housing providers and residents acquire and preserve their homes. An Opportunity to Purchase law for manufactured home parks will help residents of parks purchase and convert their parks into cooperatively owned entities. Displacement caused by the loss of Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing has devastating and long-term consequences for households. Acquisition funds to help purchase, preserve the affordability, and improve the quality of these homes is critical to ending alarming trends in displacement.
Preserving the Homes We Have and Creating New Opportunities
MHP continues to prioritize preservation and production. Annually, Minnesota continues to lose more affordable housing than it creates. Households below 50 percent of area median income are most impacted by displacement. And, the market produces the fewest new units for households at these incomes. Households struggling to find affordable housing often settle for poor quality housing and experience the highest rates of cost burden, overcrowding, evictions, and episodes of homelessness. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color households are disproportionately impacted by the inadequate stock of truly affordable homes.
- Local Housing Trust Funds. MHP continues to advocate for the one-time appropriation of state matching funds to incentivize local communities to establish and dedicate funds into affordable housing trust funds. These powerful local tools were endorsed in the 2018 Governor’s Housing Task Force report and Governor Walz’ FY20-21 budget.
- 4d. MHP believes that by simplifying and reducing the classification rate for affordable housing properties, the State can help housing providers reinvest in existing properties and better leverage private equity to produce more homes or better leverage state resources to create more deeply affordable units. This change will help preserve existing affordable housing stock by lessening the economic pressures that currently drive the conversion of many affordable units into market-rate status.
- Bonding. Bonds are Minnesota’s single greatest tool to create the most deeply affordable units. MHP will continue to work in coalition with Homes for All to secure additional bonding resources.
- Tax Credit Contribution Fund. MHP continues to advocate for a state affordable housing tax credit. The Minnesota Legislature must do more to incentivize the donation of cash, land and property to support preservation and new production. Adding land and property donations to our cash donation credit proposal will help preserve or repurpose distressed assets into affordable homes.
Improving Access and Opportunity
Low-income renters face a variety of challenges to securing safe, decent and affordable housing. Households with non-traditional incomes like Section 8 vouchers or other forms of housing assistance many times struggle to utilize their assistance because some landlords refuse to accept it. Often the denial of housing based on income serves as a pretext for discrimination, disproportionately affecting renters of color, women and persons with disabilities.
- Prohibit Source of Income Discrimination. Minnesota needs to amend its Human Rights Act to clarify that housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income is illegal.
- Eviction Expungement Reform. Reforming Minnesota’s eviction reporting and expungement laws would give tenants opportunities to remedy their situations before an eviction is recorded and more easily secure an expungement, especially in cases of dismal or in cases where an eviction is not a reasonable predictor of future tenant behavior.
Download and view the 2021 Policy Agenda factsheet here.
- Written by Andy Birkey
Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) has received a crucial grant to assist rural and Native leaders in solving housing and community development issues in their communities. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rural Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Grant program (RCB) will provide $2.4 million to continue MHP’s important technical assistance and capacity-building work.
The award will fund MHP’s Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, which gives leaders the tools and knowledge they need to identify and address regional development needs through strategic collaboration.
In rural and Native communities nationwide, there’s a significant gap between the supply of affordable housing and the number of people who need it, and a pressing need to address community development challenges. Providing resources and guidance to local and Tribal governments and other rural housing development organizations has proven an effective model of helping local communities address these needs.
“Minnesota Housing Partnership is ready to put this funding to work immediately in rural and tribal communities,” said Anne Mavity, MHP’s executive director. “We are thrilled that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has committed these funds to help our communities thrive.”
MHP has used past awards to provide technical assistance to rural communities in 17 states, including 20 Native nations. Past funding has resulted in hundreds of new and preserved units of affordable housing, and dozens of community and economic development projects in communities that need it most.
"MHP helped Lower Sioux’s Planning & Grants Department identify a new funder for an upcoming rental construction project. They then sat down with us to teach us how to complete the intensive 15-year feasibility projections and they reviewed our proposal draft," said Nora Murphy, Tribal Planner and Grant Writer for the Lower Sioux Indian Community. "In the end, we were awarded two grants to build 10 new rental homes at Lower Sioux. We simply couldn’t have done it without MHP’s guidance. Many, many thanks!"
Funds will be awarded to eligible entities through a Request for Technical Assistance process that will be announced in the next few weeks and that will be posted here.
- Written by Andy Birkey
A new report by MHP describes important affordable rural rental properties across Minnesota and the people who live there.
In communities across Greater Minnesota, rural rental housing is at risk due to declining investment and failure to construct new housing affordable to community members. -- and MHP is working with partners and communities to save it (Learn more about our technical assistance here). These are rental units that have been financed under the USDA’s Section 515 program. Under 515, nonprofit and for-profit entities have received 1 percent loans for acquisition, rehabilitation or construction of rental housing and related facilities.
Many rural rental homes are aging and in poor condition. As federal investments in the 515 program have been insufficient and declining for many years, many 515 properties are in declining condition and there has been no new construction for years.
As loans for these properties expire, more and more buildings are exiting the Section 515 program. Exiting properties may lose rental assistance funding, and some properties are no longer required to keep rents affordable — meaning residents could face displacement or homelessness.
These properties are often the few rental homes in rural communities that are affordable to extremely low-income residents, seniors, and people with disabilities. The loss of these properties will be especially acute for communities already struggling to provide affordable homes.
Part of the effort to save these properties is to quantify and describe these properties and who lives in them. MHP, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, analyzed the most recently available data. The result is this report.
Among the findings:
- Minnesota has 456 properties under the 515 program providing 9,667 affordable rental units and housing 13,435 people.
- Average annual income for residents of these properties is $17,061.
- These properties are found in 82 of Minnesota’s 87 counties but are concentrated in central and southern Minnesota.
- Significant age of the properties, indicating a need for regular maintenance and potentially poor conditions.
- Households are more likely to be headed by women and are more likely to be BIPOC.
- Written by Andy Birkey
MHP's Libby Murphy, Deputy Director of Policy, gives an overview of what we know about the state budget and how housing will be affected.
Minnesota Management and Budget released the official November revenue and spending forecast earlier this week, and it was a pleasant surprise. What had been a projected $2.42 billion deficit earlier this year is now a $641 million surplus for the upcoming biennium.
The November forecast in even-numbered years is critical starting point for the Minnesota Legislature. Governor Walz and lawmakers use the forecast to draft their two-year state budget proposals.
The surplus offers lawmakers an unexpected opportunity to help more individuals and businesses hurt by the second round of pandemic-related closures. While there is bipartisan support for some type of relief package in a December special session, it is unclear how much of the surplus lawmakers will agree to spend this December. A relief bill in December has broad support because Federal CARES Act dollars are largely already spent and any remaining money must be spent by the end of the calendar year.
Governor Walz and others have indicated that the surplus should be viewed as an opportunity to provide a 60-day bridge to struggling businesses and households until Congress passes a second relief package. While talks at the Federal level are accelerating, stalled talks in the fall led many to believe relief won’t come until February, after President Elect Biden takes office.
Even before the surplus announcement, Republican and DFL leaders released plans to provide financial help to businesses ordered to close and workers impacted by these closures. Walz acknowledged that the updated forecast will help accelerate discussions. Leaders on both sides of the aisle in both bodies acknowledged that the announcement provides assurances that the State has enough money in the short term to provide relief to those individuals and businesses that need it the most.
The surplus is a result of higher general fund revenues than predicted and lower spending than expected. It’s important to keep in mind that the May forecast was really a best guess estimate at the impacts COVID-19 would have on the State’s economy. While the budget outlook is also improved for the next biennium, MMB still projects a $1.273 billion deficit in the following (2022-2023). That deficit will influence lawmakers spending and revenue making decisions this year but, to what extent, remains to be seen.
Lawmakers are guaranteed to return to the Capitol, albeit mostly virtually, on December 14 for their sixth special session of the year. They are required to convene every 30 days to extend Governor Walz’ peacetime emergency. If lawmakers can agree to a relief package sooner, lawmakers will likely return sooner in order to get money quickly into the pockets of individuals and small businesses targeted through their relief efforts.
The recession’s unequal impacts
The higher than expected tax collections are attributed to the fact that the pandemic recession is hitting Minnesotans differently. Those in low-wage, service jobs most impacted by shutdowns are doing worse, especially after enhanced unemployment payments ended this summer. But many others experienced no decline or even increases to their incomes. For this reason, DFLers want to be laser focused on getting aide to lowest wage workers.
What this means for housing
Housing assistance is largely absent from the public conversations and proposals. The surplus announcement has the potential to broaden the range of direct economic supports to households in need and, potentially, housing providers.
MHP believes it is essential for the economic relief package to not only provide direct stimulus payments to households to help them pay their bills through the next few months; it must also include additional housing assistance dollars to help households catch up on past due housing payments. Debt as a direct or indirect consequence of COVID-19 and the pandemic recession is a financially crippling event that Minnesota lawmakers need to address. The Great Recession demonstrated what long-term consequences housing related debt has on low income households, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) households. And, when these households cannot fully participate in the economy, everyone suffers.
MHP joins Homes for All is calling on lawmakers to invest an additional $50 million in emergency housing assistance. Despite receiving nearly $700,000 in daily requests, Minnesota Housing will stop taking new applications after 11:59 p.m. on December 7 in order to process all payments. Households are still learning about the program and how to navigate the process. Additionally, the proposed stimulus amounts for direct payments may not be enough to help all households make their rent, mortgage, HOA, utility or other housing related expenses. MHP calculates that a low wage worker in the food prep or service industry could find themselves paying anywhere between 90-103 percent of their unemployment check on rent.