Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Jen McEwen

City/Town: Duluth

Legislative District: SD7

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?

The private housing market has never been able to fully meet the needs of people for quality affordable housing. It is therefore the responsibility of the public sector to step in to make sure that this basic human need is met. There are many methods through which the government can fulfill this responsibility - direct investment in publicly-owned housing, public-private partnerships, subsidies to private developers, subsidies to tenants, and rent control, for instance. Unfortunately, over the past several decades, government at virtually all levels has abandoned its obligation to ensure there is a sufficient stock of quality affordable housing to meet the public need. We need to recommit ourselves to that principle and then determine the proper mix of policy tools to achieve it. In addition, the public sector has an obligation to provide supportive services to help those who face non-financial barriers to housing keep a roof over their heads.

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? 

Research shows that the “housing first” approach to ending homelessness is the most effective, both in terms of cost and in terms of outcomes. While we must invest in mental and chemical health programs with a goal of treatment on demand, aggressive state investment in affordable housing development must be a priority homelessness response. In the meantime, we should implement existing disaster shelter plans in communities that have insufficient shelter space.

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?

I support the continuation of the current eviction moratorium through the pandemic. An eviction moratorium, however, can only last so long before it causes irreparable harm to small landlords. For that reason we must boost funding for emergency rental assistance and find new paths to educate qualified households who may not be aware of these resources.

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?

I will support statewide coordinated testing to collect data on racial bias in rentals and home sales, investment in community based programs offering education and pathways to homeownership, and racial equity measures in all housing bonding bills.

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?

I will support full funding of the Homes For All bonding request, incentives for municipalities to create housing trust funds, and new standards for all University of Minnesota and MNSCU campuses to provide adequate housing for students to prevent stress on local housing markets. In addition, I support lifting Minnesota’s ban on municipal rent control policies so that the state and local governments can partner to determine how rent control can best be used as a tool to address housing affordability.
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 stable place to live is among the most significant social determinants of health. The most important housing-based strategy to improve health outcomes is therefore to make sure that everyone has a stable place to live. I also will support community-based health strategies that meet people where they are. That includes support for site-based mental and chemical health services where needed and community health centers.

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?

I will support homeowner education and assistance programs as well as public investment in innovative ownership structures that promote affordability, such as community land trusts.

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 will meet regularly with Duluth’s Affordable Housing Coalition and other community partners. I would particularly look forward to participating in housing listening sessions with people who are experiencing the consequences of Duluth’s affordable housing crisis firsthand.