Housing and Homeless Budgets Head to Conference Committees

We are just three weeks away from the official end of legislative session, and nearly every day brings a new development at the Capitol. The 80 Homes for All organizational members and many more individual supporters have been lending their voices to ensure that thousands of low-income Minnesotans avoid homelessness and can access housing that is affordable and safe.  Key bills head to conference committees this week, where differences between House and Senate proposals will be ironed out. So it’s an essential time to be engaged.

Homes for All is working on three pieces of legislation:

1) investment in housing and homelessness programs through Minnesota Housing, 2) investment in four key programs that provide services and shelter for the homeless in the Department of Health and Human Services, and 3) bonding for housing. Odd years are supplemental bonding years, and this year the bonding bill will fall in line only after budget bills have been negotiated.  At this time, the budget items are in constant motion.

Minnesota Housing (MHFA) budget

In the budget shakeout, housing fared well in both the House and Senate, but the Senate proposal is stronger. The Senate bill funds Minnesota Housing at $106 million for FY 14-15, a $30 million increase in funding from FY 12-13. However, the Senate proposal as written is “one-time” money, which means that funding would drop back in our next round of budget negotiations in two years. For this reason, we want to:

  • Support the Senate proposal of $106 million for Minnesota Housing Funding
  • Include program increases as “base funding” for future budgets.

For more on the specific programs, what they do, and the dollar amounts in the Senate bill for Minnesota Housing, see Table 1.

This week, the House and Senate bills will be reconciled in conference committee. If you live or work in a district of one of the conferees, please contact him or her. Otherwise, contact your own legislators, and ask them to speak to the conferees:

Sen. David Tomassoni    Rep. Tim Mahoney
Sen. James Metzen   Rep. Joe Atkins
Sen. Dan Sparks   Rep. Karen Clark
Sen. Tom Saxhaug   Rep. Sheldon Johnson      
Sen. Torrey Westrom   Rep. Bob Gunther

Department of Human Services budget for four key homeless services

Homes for All has been seeking $25 million in additional funding for four key homeless programs in the Department of Human Services within the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget.  The four programs (Long-Term Homeless Supportive Services, Transitional Housing, the Emergency Services Program, and the Homeless Youth Act) cover the continuum of homelessness services.

The HHS budget has been constrained by lower-than-hoped for allocations in a tight budget year. While the House and Senate each found something for housing, neither chamber’s budget is adequate. The Senate bill includes $4 million for the Homeless Youth Act, and the House bill includes $8 million for homeless services, including $3 million for the Homeless Youth Act.

At this point, Homes for All is urging the Senate Leadership (Sen. Bakk and Sen. Cohen) to find new money to increase the budget for these four homeless services programs to add a total of $11 million in new funding, since current proposals are far too low. Click here for the Homes for All HHS proposal for the conference committee in Table 2.

The conferees include:

Sen. Tony Lourey    Rep.Tom Huntley
Sen. Kathy Sheran   Rep. Tina Liebling
Sen. Jeff Hayden   Rep. Diane Loeffler          
Sen. Melissa Franzen   Rep. Rena Moran
Sen. Melissa Wiklund   Rep. Jim Abeler

Please reach out to the conferees if you live or work in their districts, or contact your own legislators, and ask them to speak to the conferees.

Time to act!