Homes for All gaining momentum at the Capitol

The Homes for All bills to help stabilize families with affordable housing, prevent homelessness, and create housing that serves our state’s workforce continue to move forward, and support is growing. Over 70 organizations have now endorsed our coalition’s legislation requesting a $50 million increase in state funding split between Minnesota Housing and four DHS homelessness programs, along with a $50 million in housing bonds.  Between successful recent hearings and favorable budget “targets” being set, we are one step closer realizing our shared Homes for All goals.

Minnesota Housing funding bills

The Homes for All bills requesting a $25 million increase in base funding for Minnesota Housing programs including the Challenge Fund, Housing Trust Fund, and Family Homeless Prevention Assistance Fund and others, had favorable hearings in the House and Senate Highlights include:

  • Bill Ziegler, MHP Board member and CEO of Little Earth of United Tribes in Minneapolis, provided compelling testimony in the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee, along with representatives of Habitat for Humanity, Aeon and Corporation for Supportive Housing.
  • Jamie Thelen, MHP Board member and President of Sand Companies, shared his experience as a private developer using the Challenge Fund to build affordable housing during a March 20 hearing of the Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Finance Division.  Matt Soucek of Project for Pride in Living joined Liz Kuoppola, Executive Director of the MN Coalition for the Homeless and Co-Chair of Homes for All, in testifying on behalf of the Homes For All legislative agenda at the hearing.

The next step for both bills (H.F. 1194 / S.F. 811) will be getting their budget proposals included in the larger “omnibus” package of funding bills of these House and Senate committees.

DHS funding bills

The Homes for All bill requesting a $25 million increase in base funding for four DHS programs that serve homeless Minnesotans (H.F. 937), was heard favorably to an overflow crowd of Homes for All supporters, in conjunction with Homeless Day on the Hill, at a hearing of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee on March 7. The Senate bill, S.F. 797, awaits a hearing.

Included in the Homes for All bill is an $8 million request for the Homeless Youth Act, which is also moving forward as a separate bill. The Homeless Youth Act (H.F. 698 / S.F. 565) provides street outreach, emergency shelter beds, drop-in centers, transitional living programs and supportive housing to unaccompanied youth ages 21 and younger. The HYA has passed through the Health and Human Services (HHS) Policy committees in the House and the Senate, as well as the House HHS Finance Committee. The bill still awaits a hearing in the Senate HHS Finance committee. All committee hearings have been before packed rooms, with youth providing moving testimony about support they have received to help them succeed.

The Governor’s supplemental budget included an additional $5 million for Homeless youth, which is a big win!

Budget Targets

To help get these bills through the Legislature, Homes for All has focused efforts on ensuring that the committee budget “targets” are high enough to meet the coalition’s ask of $50 million in additional funding. The targets determine how much money each committee has to divvy up among the programs it is are responsible for.

Legislative leadership has clearly heard our call for affordable housing, as both the House and Senate Committees that fund housing received increases above their base funding:

  • House: +$22 million for Housing Finance and Policy Committee
  • Senate: +$135 million for Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Finance Committee

Note that the Senate target differs from the House target in part because it funds more than just housing, as its name implies, while the House committee covers housing only.

The news was less clear for homelessness services. Under a directive for cuts, the House and Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committees that fund homeless services both received a 1% cut in base funding. At the same time, we have no reason to believe that these cuts will affect the Homes for All ask, which amounts to only 0.2% of the entire Health and Human Services budget of $11.3 billion. Base funding cuts were:

  • House: -$150 million
  • Senate: -$153 million

Kudos to all of the many supporters who have been reaching out to legislators! To get involved or learn what’s needed now, contact Julie Johnson: #651-925-5548 or Erica Schmiel: #651-925-5552.