Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Jon Olson

City/Town: Elko New Market

Legislative District: 20

Party: DFL

1: A national poll in May 2020 found that 78% of the public believes our elected leaders are not putting enough attention on people’s need for help to pay for their housing during the coronavirus outbreak. What do you believe is the role of government in ensuring everyone has access to housing?

I believe government should work closely with the private sector to create public/private partnerships that address housing needs. Since I only have 300 words, I cannot possibly fully address this issue in this space, but suffice it to say, I believe every time we move someone who is unsheltered into temporary accommodations, we've failed, yet again, to address their actual need. We can and must do better.

2: In Minnesota, 80 of 87 counties do not have the capacity to provide sufficient shelter or temporary housing to those who are homeless. Nationally, a study of US cities found that 25 percent of all requests for emergency shelter went unmet. What will you do to end homelessness? 

I'd support Governor Walz's request for dramatically greater funding to address homelessness in Minnesota. But being homeless is only part of the issue. Getting people permanent shelter stabilizes their situation, but to make a real difference, we also need to comprehensively address all their other needs--medical care, mental health care, education, training, counseling, food and clothing needs, et al. Until we stop approaching these issues as single topics like housing, job training, counseling, and instead approach the whole person, or the whole family, in a comprehensive, integrated way, through public/private partnerships, we'll never truly succeed in lifting people back into full participation in society.

3: According to the Census Bureau's July 22 Household Pulse Survey for Minnesota, and Stout’s analysis of this data, there are 132,000 potential eviction filings over the next 4 months in Minnesota. Over 90% of evictions in Minnesota are for non-payment of rent. What will you do to prevent evictions?

For those who are have lost employment due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, we should bolster their position by possibly covering rent for their apartment. There are, however, those who have chosen to take advantage of the system and refuse to pay rent, even when they can afford it. Such people should be evicted. They fail to abide by standards of conduct that are vital to a just and fair society. Landlords must also pay mortgages, and property taxes, and they rely on rental payments to cover both. We shouldn't support renters and punish landlords in this process. Both sides must be helped in ways that are fair and equitable.

4: Being denied where to live because of race, family status, or disability is discrimination. In Minnesota, 53% more whites are homeowners than Black residents, a statistic that dwarfs the national racial homeownership gap of 30%. What meaningful steps will you take to address the root problems of racial disparities in housing?

This is a significant issue for our state, and I'll be honest with you, I'm not sure what the optimal way is to address the home ownership gap. This is part of breaking the poverty cycle, which we must do. Too many of our societal inequalities and inequities are a result of the poverty cycle. I'm willing to listen and learn regarding ideas on how to best address this issue.

5: Our housing crisis includes a lack of safe, stable homes in Minnesota. The 2018 Minnesota Task Force on Housing identified a need for 300,000 new ownership and rental homes over the next decade. While there are 180,000 Minnesota renters with incomes at 30% area median income, only 100 units affordable to these families are produced each year. What steps will you take to support Minnesotans’ access to homes, especially for under resourced households?

This feels like a problem that is addressed in Governor Walz's request for greater funding in this area. I also believe we might create tax incentives for developers to create mixed-income housing in developments all around our state, ensuring people with lower incomes can still afford to live in nice areas. I believe we'd find small communities throughout Minnesota that would welcome new homeowners in entry-level housing, if we can find developers willing to build houses at much less profit. This is likely another great area for public/private partnerships to address.

6: More than ever, the public understands the connection between housing and health, as well as education, transportation, and more. What housing-based strategy would you use to improve health outcomes for Minnesotans?

Having a nice, stable home is a critical social determinant of health. That's a fact. Thus, if we can get people into stable, nice homes, we can begin to address health issues across the board. Which takes us back to earlier questions. Public/private partnerships addressing housing needs for individuals and families moves rapidly to solve these issues.

7: Over 188,000 Minnesota renter households between the ages of 25 and 44 are income-qualified to purchase a home but continue to rent, including 64,000 households of color. What steps will you take to increase opportunities for renters to purchase homes, condos, or cooperative ownership models, if they choose?

If they are income-qualified to buy a home, but choose to continue to rent, I don't believe government should "force" someone to do so. Yes, the transfer of private property from one generation to the next is one of the most important ways people build wealth, and we should encourage more households of color to buy homes. I would support programs that encourage home ownership to free up more rental space to be used as needed, but I would never "force" someone to buy a house.

8: Including community recommendations when developing policies and programs is a best practice for effective and lasting solutionsHow will you include those impacted by housing needs in developing and implementing housing solutions?

I stated earlier in your survey I would welcome education on these topics. I am a graduate of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. I welcome information from advocacy groups and from non-partisan research institutions that study these issues. I would base my public policy support solely on facts, data, and non-partisan research into the optimal ways to address societal challenges like housing, health care, restorative justice, et al. Show me the studies and the recommended ways to fix our challenges and I'll find ways to support those paths to success. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questionnaire. Please come to see me at my office in Saint Paul after I win this election!