Meet MHP’s new Policy Director, Marcus Schmit

Growing up in Greater Minnesota, I enjoyed the quality of life associated with small town living. There was a distinct sense of community in my hometown. Family plans revolved around Friday night football games and church potlucks. My parents had everything they needed to raise three young boys – quality schools, access to health care, employment, and a place to call home. As the son of two public school teachers, I always had a roof over my head.

For many, Greater Minnesota still remains an ideal place to live, work, and raise a family. Some communities, however, lack the available affordable housing options needed to retain and recruit workers. I learned about these challenges meeting with local officials and touring businesses as a longtime aide for Congressman Tim Walz. I was inspired to join Minnesota Housing Partnership, in part, to work with community leaders and other like-minded organizations to address the unique challenge of Greater Minnesota workforce housing.

Our state is comprised of diverse communities all contributing to Minnesota’s success in their own way. Accordingly, the needs of Perham and Thief River Falls are not identical to the needs of Albert Lea or Worthington. But one of the obstacles these communities face is pretty straightforward: there is not enough available affordable housing to retain and recruit the workers needed for them to grow and prosper. The meatpacker, the IT specialist, and the public school teacher are all out of luck when it comes to securing a place to call home at a reasonable rate in many rural parts of Minnesota. As a result, jobs are left unfilled and some of our communities are not as successful as they could be.

Without question, workforce housing is only one obstacle facing our communities. As MHP gears up for the 2016 state legislative session, we are listening and learning from folks on the front lines. We are working with policy experts, business and community leaders, state agency staff, and nonprofit partners to identify the most urgent housing issues facing our state. We are learning from the MHP capacity building staff, whose on-the-ground assistance to housing and community development professionals throughout the Midwest provides essential insight into how policies are being implemented and ways we can develop vital, resilient rural and Native American communities.

It has been an inspiring first month at MHP. There is much work to be done. I am excited to contribute to this organization’s impactful work in our communities and advocate for pragmatic policy solutions that make a difference for all Minnesotans’ quality of life.