Take 5 with MHP’s Aaron Johnson

Take Five is MHP’s series that asks the same five questions of a variety of people intersecting with MHP, from staff to housing advocates! We are excited to welcome Community Development Associate Aaron Johnson.

Aaron Johnson

Q1. Who are you?

Aaron Johnson (he/him), Community Development Associate

Q2. What attracted you to working with MHP?

MHP’s mission of providing affordable and equitable housing is aligned with my own values and vision for the world. I believe housing is a human right and a pillar of thriving communities, so I’m energized by MHP’s commitment to these issues, and to centering those who have been most impacted by economic and racial disparities. I was also drawn to the systems change approach that MHP takes to this work. Given the many facets of these issues, it will take an equally comprehensive approach that combines the areas that MHP works in, such as research, advocacy, and community development.

Q3. What’s a challenge in the field of housing right now?

The complexity of housing – on economic, cultural, and political levels – makes it difficult for many folks to know where and how to enact effective, positive change. Through education, capacity-building, and the creation of local networks (such as through the Institute model), the “how” and “why” of the issues facing our communities will become clearer, as will actions to help solve their unique challenges.

Q4. Is there a book by your bed, and what is it?

Yes! I am currently reading Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi and All About Love by bell hooks. Next up is the Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.

Q5. Who is your superhero? 

My grandparents. They are and were extremely hard workers, dedicated to music, family, and their church community, and they created an impactful legacy. I aspire to their level of tenacity, commitment to what they love, and connection to their communities.

Look out for more Take 5 profiles coming soon!


MHP to Host Northwest Housing and Community Development Workshop

MHP is excited to host the regional workshop: Advancing Housing and Community Development in the Northwest Region of Minnesota on June 8, 2023. It will bring together leaders focused on housing solutions for the region and emphasize specific development opportunities in the region.

More than $2B for Housing and Homelessness this Legislative Session will Stabilize and Save MN Lives

As the legislative session ends, MHP is excited to join in celebrating a historic more than $2 billion housing and homelessness investment that creates new opportunities for thousands of Minnesota families to have access to safe, stable homes they can afford. “This landmark legislation is about so much more than housing,” says Anne Mavity, MHP Executive Director, “it will truly transform lives and communities.”

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The 2023 Legislative Session in Review!

In December of 2021, MHP convened partners and invited them to join us in asking the Minnesota Legislature to invest $2B in 2022. Gridlock had us come back in 2023, again asking for $2B. On Jan 11, 2023, MHP and our partners held a rally in the Capitol Rotunda. The crowd in the rotunda chanted “$2B in 2023!” Now that lawmakers have passed all the budget bills, it is clear that lawmakers heard that rallying call and delivered.


Housing Omnibus Bill: $1B additional one-time, $50M additional on-going, and a nearly $400M/year in 7-county metro

One of the biggest highlights of this session is the $1B in additional direct appropriations to Minnesota Housing. Minnesota Housing’s FY24-25 budget is 850% greater than its current base budget. The Housing Omnibus bill makes critical investments throughout the housing continuum. This biennium, Minnesota Housing will have over $600M in direct state appropriations to produce and preserve more single-family homes, manufactured home parks/cooperatives, and multifamily rental homes. Minnesota Housing will have more than $450M in resources to increase access and provide choice and opportunity for one’s housing through rental assistance, homebuyer counseling and financial assistance. 

Additionally, the Housing Omnibus bill includes a seven-county metro wide sales tax. The tax will raise nearly $200M per year in coming years. These resources will be distributed among metro based public housing authorities and city and county governments. 25 percent of the funds will fund rental assistance, 25 percent of funds will go directly to cities, and 50 percent of the funds will go to counties. Cities and Counties can use these resources for emergency rental assistance, to support nonprofit housing developers, and build and preserve more affordable homes. Download the final spreadsheet for the Housing Omnibus Bill here.


Taxes

Housing was a top priority for the tax committees, as lawmakers provided property tax relief to homeowners and renters. Lawmakers significantly expanded the Renter’s Credit and made it easier for renters to claim their credit. As a result of the bill, an estimated 119,000 more Minnesotans will receive the credit.  The bill also increases the property tax refund for homeowners. Lawmakers provided a one-time boost to both the renter and homeowner property tax refunds.  Another significant change was to the 4d tax classification will result in over $60M in property tax savings for participating units. 

Owners of multifamily rental homes will see their property taxes assessed at a single .25 rate. The tax bill also includes an additional $40M for the workforce and affordable homeownership program, establishes a local county housing aid program and funds it at $45M this biennium, and creates a credit to incentivize manufactured home park owners to sell to existing residents. In addition to housing-specific line items in the bill, the bill funds the Minnesota Child Tax Credit. It’s not clear yet how many families will receive the credit, but it will drastically reduce child poverty in Minnesota. And, Tribal nations will get aid, which can be used for housing.  


Bonding: Nearly $76M in housing and $21M in shelter

In the final hours of session, the Legislature passed two bonding bills. A cash bill invests $850.7M and the other invests $1.3B from the proceeds of general obligation bonds, $219.2M from the Transportation Fund, and $224.9 from the General Fund. The bills invest $30M in cash and $41.87M in general obligation bonds for public housing rehabilitation. The bill also includes $3M for a Greater MN Housing Program and $1M to the City of Minneapolis for Satori Village. There is over $21M in funding to five specific emergency shelters.  


Health & Human Services: Nearly $200M

The Health and Human Services bill includes $100M in one-time funding in shelter capital, a $30M increase in FY24-25 and $55M in FY26-27 in the Emergency Shelter Program, $6M this biennium and next for transitional housing, $30M FY24-25 and FY26027 in Homeless Youth Act, $4.25M in FY24-25 and $2.5M in FY26-27 in Safe Harbor, and $850K inFY24-25 and $1.55M inFY26-27 for the Homeless Management Information System. Hennepin and Ramsey Counties will each receive $11.4M in one-time funding to provide services to people experiencing homelessness. The bill includes modifications to the Housing Support Program to allow individuals with unearned income to keep more money.  

Environment and Climate:

The Environment and Climate Omnibus invests $39M for pre-weatherization and weatherization activities and  funds a number of programs to help homeowners afford things like heat pumps and electric panels. The bill establishes the Minnesota Climate Innovation Authority/Green Bank. The Green Bank can fund housing related activities that incorporate clean energy technologies.  The bill changes the building code process to help Minnesota achieve an eighty percent improvement in annual net energy consumption by 2036. Several of the state’s investments will help leverage new Federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) 

A Constitutional Amendment for Housing

UPDATE 5/17/23: This week, Representative Michael Howard and Senator Zaynab Mohamed introduced the Our Future Starts at Home bill for a constitutional amendment that would ensure long-term, sustainable, predictable, and ongoing investments to address Minnesota’s housing crisis. This bill, supported by the Our Future Starts at Home (OFSAH) coalition and over two dozen legislative authors, will help improve Minnesotans’ quality of life by creating new opportunities for many families across the state to have ongoing access to safe and stable homes. We’re excited that our partners and authors are coming together to create a path for guaranteed continued funding that builds on this year’s historic progress and addresses Minnesota’s persistent housing needs.

Because we need to ensure the state is making the ongoing investments required to truly address our current housing crisis.

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Join the MHP Team!

Narrative Change VISTA Tenant Organizer:

MHP is seeking a Narrative Change VISTA Tenant Organizer to build tenant power and influence through storytelling, organizing, convening, and leadership development activities. Join us to develop housing narratives directed by the intentions and leadership of tenants.

Program Description: MHP is leading a statewide project to develop and disseminate a housing narrative that moves people to action and commitment. The Narrative Change VISTA Tenant Organizer will support tenant capacity and leadership through storytelling, and support sharing housing stories
through multiple mediums and approaches. This position will facilitate and support virtual and in-person dialogues about housing challenges, the Minnesota housing system, and housing solutions and successes.

Compensation: VISTA positions include a biweekly stipend ($877.66 every two weeks), choice of Education Award or End of Service Stipend ($6,495 or $1,800), health coverage (healthcare allowance of $7,900), relocation allowance, training, and childcare assistance if eligible. Additional benefits include a $500 monthly housing or general assistance, and transportation costs including mileage reimbursement.

Qualifications: Candidates are desired to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, the ability to work on multiple tasks and manage time, the ability to work as part of a team, and basic computer word processing skills. Access to a car is recommended but not required.

To apply: Full job description here. This position is open to applications through July 14, 2023. Applications are accepted through the AmeriCorp website.

MHP’s Executive Director Anne Mavity Testifies in US Senate Subcommittee. 

On Tuesday, May 2nd, MHP’s Executive Director Anne Mavity testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Subcommittee on Housing Transportation and Community Development. The hearing focused on this year’s “Farm Bill” and the opportunity it represents to preserve deeply needed affordable housing in rural communities.

Mavity’s testimony builds on the recently released report The USDA Section 515 Program and The Challenge of Preserving Affordable Housing in Greater Minnesota a collaboration between MHP, the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), and Housing Justice Center. Read Mavity’s written testimony from the hearing here

Click to watch Anne Mavity’s Testimony.

The Future of Rural Rental Housing: USDA Sec 515 Research & Remedies

Minnesota state policy update mid-2023 session featuring Amy Koch of Hylden Advocacy & Law, Annie Shapiro of Minn Cap and Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL – Minneapolis). Rep. Agbaje serves as Vice Chair of the House Housing Committe, in caucus leadership, and co-chairs the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) caucus. Talking about housing policy.

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MHP’s Legislative Update: Rep. Howard & Sen. Boldon

Minnesota state policy update mid-2023 session featuring Amy Koch of Hylden Advocacy & Law, Annie Shapiro of Minn Cap and Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL – Minneapolis). Rep. Agbaje serves as Vice Chair of the House Housing Committe, in caucus leadership, and co-chairs the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) caucus. Talking about housing policy.

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2023 Report: The USDA Section 515 Program and the Challenge of Preserving Affordable Housing in Greater Minnesota

This research effort was a multi-year collaboration between the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), Housing Justice Center, and Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP). The CURA-funded research was lead by Ryan Allen with support by CURA Community-Based Research. For MHP, this 2023 report illustrates the intersection and cross-collaboration between the organization’s three program areas: our research, policy, and community development departments. 

Section 515 = Rural Rental Affordability; For very low, low, and moderate-income households; includes rent restriction; comes with low interest rate loan; and 30 year loans are amortized to 50 years
Report Graphics by Kia Lee (Graphic Designer), USDA 515 Report, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs 2023

Go to the USDA Section 515 Report

“From MHP’s community development work in rural communities, we know many rural residents need deeply affordable rental housing, and USDA 515 rental housing are often the only affordable options in many communities. Preserving these USDA 515 properties is critical both for their rental assistance and to update these aging properties, before it is too late.”

Jill Henricksen, Community Development Manager, MHP
27% of rural or small-town households pay more than 30% of their income on housing.

Like urban areas in the U.S., rural areas currently face a housing affordability crisis. Approximately 6.9 million (27%) of rural or small-town households are considered “cost-burdened” (paying more than 30% of their monthly income on housing costs). Since 1949, USDA’s Section 515 program has been an effective strategy for creating affordable rents in rural areas of the U.S. The program provides low interest loans for building multifamily rental housing, restricting the amount of rent that can be charged to tenants. Section 515 rental housing is frequently coupled with Section 521 Rental Assistance, ensuring these homes are affordable to rural residents with extremely low incomes.

In 48 of 80 MN Counties, Section 515 accounts for more than 20% of total subsidized housing.

In 2020, Section 515 properties accounted for almost 19% of the nearly 50,000 subsidized units located in greater MN. They also accounted for more than 20% of subsidized housing in the majority of MN counties.

Section 515 properties are required to maintain affordability restrictions for the life of the loan (50 years), but properties lose affordability when their mortgages mature. In MN, the peak of mortgage maturations will occur in 2030. As properties in the Section 515 program mature out of the program in the next 10 to 30 years, the Midwest stands to lose thousands of affordable rural rental homes. With no clear contingency plan for maintaining affordability in these properties, many of the properties may exit the program, reducing the number of affordable housing units in rural areas where the stock of affordable housing is already scarce

The report provides a background to the Section 515 program, insights from Section 515 stakeholders, and a set of recommendations for policymakers to ensure the program’s viability in the coming years.

In MN, 2,125 units may leave the section 515 program by 2030 - or 22% of MN Section 515 units as of 2020

“People perceive that access to affordable housing is only a problem in urban areas, but in reality the scarcity of affordable housing is reaching a crisis point in rural areas as well. As we show in this research, in many cases Section 515 makes up a substantial proportion of the subsidized housing. In some rural communities, it is the only supply of subsidized housing. Ensuring the continued vitality of rural communities will likely mean creating a plan for how to keep these housing units affordable.”

Dr. Ryan Allen, Report Author, Director, the Urban and Regional Planning program, and associate dean for research at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Major Findings Include:

  • The Midwest will see large proportions of its Section 515 properties mature out of the program earlier than the U.S. overall. The peak of mortgage maturations for Section 515 properties in the Midwest will occur in 2030, about 10 years before the peak in mortgage maturations occurs for Section 515 properties in the U.S. In Minnesota, we estimate that 2,125 Section 515 units will mature and potentially leave the program by 2030.
More than 40% of Midwest Section 515 Projects are designated for seniors, compared to 33% of Section 515 projects in the US.
  • The unique characteristics of Section 515 properties in the Midwest suggest that some policy responses may need to be tailored to fit the unique needs of the program there.
    • The average size of a Section 515 property is smaller in the Midwest than in the U.S. This smaller scale suggests that owners may have less capacity to absorb costs related to capital maintenance and complex real estate transactions compared to owners of larger properties.
    • Midwest Section 515 properties are more likely to be used by seniors than in other states. Thus, some of rural Minnesota’s most vulnerable households are at risk of substantial rent increases and potential dislocation.
    • Nearly 40% of Midwest Section 515 properties are owned by nonprofit organizations, about double the proportion of in the U.S. Nonprofit organizations active in rural areas are often small and less able to manage large amounts of financial risk or complicated tasks associated with raising capital and navigating government programs.
  • Changes in the housing market in many rural counties and in the Section 515 program itself have made it less attractive to private owners and investors. On the other hand, mission-driven owners have maintained a strong interest in the 515 program as one of the few affordable housing resources available to rural communities.

This is a solvable problem, and now is the time to act.

Report recommendations include:

  • Create unique funding support for small scale Section 515 properties, including supporting needed capital maintenance.
  •  Streamline the property transfer process, from owners who want to exit the program to buyers willing to maintain long-term affordability, by making it easier, faster and less risky for preservation buyers to acquire Section 515 properties, especially for small sized properties.
  • Prioritize preservation of properties based on locations in hot and cold housing markets and those with looming mortgage maturations.

“For far too long, the USDA 515 program has been the most important housing resources for rural communities that nobody is talking about. Now these critical sources of safe, stable, and affordable housing are at risk of disappearing forever. As this report shows, the time for action is now if we want to prevent displacement of low income renters and to save these irreplaceable resources in rural communities. The good news is that there are practical solutions to ensure that rural Minnesota communities can remain great places for people to call home.”

Margaret Kaplan, Executive Director, Housing Justice Center

Materials:

Executive Summary

Story Map – with interactive maps showing impacts over time by county

Full Report, Qualitative Analysis

Full Report, Quantitative Analysis

Report Maps