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

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Cheniqua Johnson

City/Town: Worthington

Legislative District: 22B

Party: DFL

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

Housing in our corner of the state can be described simply as aging and pricey. Overall, available housing in District 22B can be classified as aging (built before 1960). In Cottonwood, Redwood, and Jackson counties individually, the percentage of aging homes is above 50%. This is among the highest in the state. Parts of District 22B have also seen a dramatic increase in rent prices with Cottonwood county alone seeing a 43% increase between the years 2000 and 2015 (the second highest rent increase in the entire state). What these statistics illuminate is the fact that rural Minnesota is not immune to housing issues that may be seen in more densely populated areas of the state. The need for new/ renovated and affordable housing is real in District 22B and cannot be ignored any longer.

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?

I believe that some form of government intervention whether that be in the form of financial assistance or incentive programs is an important step to increasing the production of affordable housing statewide. It is a simple fact that there is little to no incentive for builders to develop new affordable housing units as it simply costs too much with little in return. In district 22B the need for new affordable housing is prevalent but little to no new multi-family unit building projects are in the works. In Cottonwood, Nobles, and Jackson counties, there are about 47-59 available and affordable rental units per 100 low-income households. This means there are limited options for roughly half of extremely low-income households in much of District 22B. and a need for action from elected officials.

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 statistic like the one mentioned in this question should be enough to make anyone want to find a solution to the disparity we are seeing between wages and housing costs in Minnesota. As the representative for District 22B I will fight for a livable minimum wage across Minnesota to help offset the prominent housing cost burden that affects many of my constituents. I would also push for continued support of programs such as the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund’s NOAH Impact Fund which works to keep naturally occurring affordable housing affordable and available to Minnesotans who need it most.

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?

Minnesota’s plan to prevent and end homelessness, “Heading Home Together” is a plan that focuses on the role that all Minnesotans have to play in ending homelessness. I support funding of programs such as these that promote research-based solutions to solving homelessness in our state.

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?

In District 22B the issue of cost burdened senior renters is extremely prevalent. In Jackson county alone, 57% of senior renters are paying 30% or more of their income on housing. As a representative of this district, I will work to ensure senior community members have access to quality and affordable residential facilities with stable rent and in-home healthcare. The issue of housing affecting children’s educational outcomes once again showcases a need for an increase in affordable housing options across the board and government funding to support it. Above all, assessing the unique needs of each community is important to develop solutions that will be effective and will last for our seniors and youth. My time on the campaign trail has brought me to different communities and has shown me that within the Southwest corner of Minnesota the intricacies housing needs vary from town to town.

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?

Coming from a district with a very diverse constituency, this issue really hits home for me and will be one that is necessary to address in order to properly represent the people for 22B. I will push for enforcement of best practices and fair housing laws across the board as well as active correction and investigation where discriminatory rental and housing practices are being implemented.

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?

I will work to increase awareness of rental assistance opportunities through education targeted towards landlords, renters, and public agencies. Targeting all of these entities as well as maintaining and supporting funding for rental assistance are necessary steps towards ensuring more individuals are receiving the rental assistance they need.

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?

At this moment I would want to meet with MHP officials to learn more about how these funds would be allocated. As a representative of District 22B and rural Minnesota, I would want to ensure that rural Minnesota’s voice would be heard and its housing needs would not be ignored.