Minnesota Housing Partnership Candidate Questionnaire (supported by Homes for All)

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Jeff Brand

City/Town: Saint Peter

Legislative District: 19A

Party: DFL

District Issues: How would you characterize the housing needs in your district, for both renters and for homeowners?

There is a high demand for affordable housing and there is a short supply of inventory for rent or ownership. In Saint Peter for instance, there should be 40-50 homes for sale and we are at between 6-8 for sale now. As a City Councilmember, we’ve been using housing studies to work on solutions "outside of the box" to provide housing options across the city for decades. One is the partnership with the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership to provide income assisted living options across the city. The results are families being supported in the community.

Availability of Affordable Housing: More than 25% of households in Minnesota pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, meaning they must sacrifice in other areas like food and medicine to make ends meet. What steps will you take to encourage the production of more affordable homes?

As a Board Member of the Coalition of Greater MN Cities, I supported at least $20 million in critical workforce housing grant programs across the state. I would be in favor of providing support for affordable or workforce housing programs at a level that provided relief for the workforce throughout Minnesota.

Workers: A full-time minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in any county in Minnesota — and many of the fastest growing jobs are in low-wage industries. What investments or policy would you champion to address the growing gap between what workers can afford and housing costs?

A livable Minimum Wage would be a great first step. Affordable healthcare would also help provide relief to workers. The State of Minnesota provides a lot of support for people that work full time jobs and still do not get enough wages to pay for basic needs. I know some parents that work multiple jobs and continue to live off of credit cards for basic needs. I am puzzled as to why skilled labor is in short supply and high demand and yet wages aren’t rising but rather flattening. This is all at the same time as the Star Tribune reported that CEO wages across MN have increased by 25% from 2017 to 2018.

Homelessness: A lack of affordable housing options is one of the top reasons for homelessness, for individuals or families. What will you do to end homelessness in Minnesota?

Most homeless people are veterans. Regardless of whether or not they served in the military, we should take better care of the homeless. In 2010 there was a plan to end homelessness across Minnesota called Heading Home. This involved the Department of Human Services, Department of Corrections, and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. I would propose that these entities come together to recommit and report of the status of the plan.

Seniors and children: More than half of senior renters and more than 1 in 4 senior homeowners pay more than they can afford for housing. Meanwhile, children without stable, affordable housing have lower educational and health outcomes. What will you do to ensure housing policy and resources support Minnesota's seniors and students?

We must do more for our most vulnerable populations in Minnesota. I would be open to engaging with local communities, public officials, tribal governments, and other entities to build a plan that will provide lasting solutions to the stability issues in affordable housing. Perhaps building more housing for seniors to age in place with stability in rent. Another might be to build housing that offers stability for parents with children on a needs basis.

Racial Disparities: Minnesota's racial disparities in housing are among the worst in the nation, for renters and homeowners. For instance, 22 percent of Black households are homeowners, compared to 76 percent of white households. How will you reduce the racial homeownership gap and other disparities in housing for households of color?

I support finding ways to erase the pains created by redlining and steering by government, banking, and professionals. The truth is that the racial disparities in housing are similar to the disparities identified in health, education and employment. Addressing the needs now will help close those gaps in the next generations to come.

Rental Stability: Rental assistance is proven to reduce homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding, but 75% of residents who qualify for rental assistance do not receive this limited resource. What will you do to expand access to housing assistance to every household that needs it?

The dollars have to go to those in need the most first. I suspect there is a stigma to housing resources, however nobody should be going without shelter. Providing greater access to these funds through a referral program and at the same time funding programs at a level that are appropriate for the needs throughout Minnesota.

Funding: We cannot meet our growing, statewide housing needs without significant additional resources. Will you support a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing? Why or why not?

I understand why dedicated funding makes sense from the standpoint of stability, however I am not sure that funds should be constitutionally dedicated. I would have to know more information about what the bill looked like and how much money was carved out from the general fund.