Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Scott Dibble

City/Town: Minneapolis

Legislative District: SD61

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?

Too many people who do the work and create the wealth, whether in form of social goods or consumer products and services, are paid poverty wages. Valuing work of all kinds, universal basic income, new models of ownership, economic democracy, and greater labor rights, especially forming and strengthening labor unions, are all vital. More public funds and policies for more affordable housing, preserve existing affordable housing, shelter and rapid rehousing for those who have become homeless, supportive services to address life issues, expanding and protecting renter’s rights are all vital. To avoid an increasing gap despite these efforts, more money in pockets through the EITC (Working Family Credit), holding banks to their CRA obligations, legal services, job training, childcare, transportation and healthcare are also important. Eliminating exclusionary zoning so all housing types and prices are in every community. Communities who do the opposite in order to keep people out should not be allowed to also enjoy state and regional investments paid for by the very people they won’t allow to live there. I am working to create a sustainable, dedicated source of funding to permanently support affordable housing, rather than a mad scramble at the legislature every two years for general fund and bonding appropriations. Private developers of multifamily housing who receive any form of public support, whether financial or otherwise, need to be required to devote some percentage of their units to affordable housing.

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 support the idea that homelessness in Minnesota should be very rare, short in duration and occur only one time. First and most important is to build and staff more shelters, with supportive services and a path into transitional and permanent housing, also with supportive on-site services, so no one has to sleep outside ever. Homelessness is symptomatic of something else that is present (or lacking) in a person or family’s life. Lack of jobs that pay, lives that are immediately upended by a gap in unemployment, illness or an accident that creates severe economic hardship, lack of an adequate retirement income, lack of affordability in childcare, food, transportation, untreated behavioral health issues, lack of access to familial / community support structure, a housing market that is out of whack with what people can afford to pay. I have served as chief author and champion of the Homeless Youth Act. Ensuring that a focused and tailored response to the circumstances and lives of young the 6,000 young people with no home, disconnected from their families, who are uniquely vulnerable, is crucial. Minnesota has to tackle and solve all of these issues.

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?

Extending the current pandemic peacetime emergency eviction moratorium beyond the end of the emergency declaration by state law and allowing / encouraging local jurisdictions to do the same is vital. Funding rental assistance grants for everyone who has been cost-burdened by the pandemic related economic downturn. For those who still are behind on rent, requiring landlords to enter into repayment plans with their tenants. Significant new support for legal services for renters and instituting mediation requirements and programs. Developing robust and aggressive eviction intervention and diversion programs, in conjunction with the courts, to give renters as much information, support, tools that they need to successfully resolve their housing situation. Elements include: ability to improve faulty leases, training and workshops for renters and landlords, early dispute resolution, limitations in circumstances that evictions can be filed (just cause, landlords with no history of eviction violations, evidence standards, etc.), better functionality and easy to understand communications from the courts, legal services, financial support, elements to facilitate mutually beneficial outcomes, collaborative court models.

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?

Eliminate through strengthening of laws and enforcement, all racially-based, disparately racial-outcome practices that created and perpetuate housing segregation such as: steering by housing and rental brokers and agents (whether through refusals to show houses in particular areas, manipulated social media advertising, and on); lending predatory practices, subprime lending, and unfavorable loan terms; artificial lowering of appraised values based on racialized perceptions that leads to lower housing demand in African American neighborhoods. Create laws, programs, procedures and resources to proactively reverse the effects of disparate access to lending, grants for down payments, knowledge of how to plan for and purchase a home, and lack of investment in Black neighborhoods and lives. Of particular focus for me are investments in transportation to give greater access to well-paying jobs and other opportunities, and to encourage greater local investments in housing, services, and quality of life amenities – while guarding against the displacement effects of gentrification. Ensure that Black and POCI people are leading the conversation about the ideas, solutions and decisions made to resolve these problems.

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?

As I said in response to the first question, there is an important role for public sector funding to support the preservation of existing and production of additional affordable housing, but absent systemic changes in housing and land use policy and in the fundamentals of our economy, more and more Minnesotans will not be able afford where they live. Some steps government can take: Launch a multi-year, multi-faceted outreach campaign to educate the public on housing, as essential as education, food, health care, transportation, and safety – in the hope that the social contract and the expectation for a public response grows; Create a more accurate and timely measurement of the availability of housing relative to Minnesotan’s ability to afford it; Create a permanent funding source for preservation and production of affordable housing; Make sure a full range of housing types are available in every community in Minnesota; Strengthen and expand rental assistance support; support and protect renters rights and protect them from unscrupulous practices; improve access to services, knowledge and funds for those who otherwise are qualified to purchase a home; Support more innovative programs and ownership models such as co-ops, land trusts, sweat equity, community equity, location efficient mortgages.

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?
I’m most familiar with our local HIV/AIDS focused housing model, as best illustrated by Clare Housing. Simply put, housing and services are now proven to be synonymous with HIV/AIDS prevention. Those whose lives are stabilized because they now have housing, and supports they need onsite such as interpersonal connections, connection to health care and a health care clinic, employment counseling, are able to enter into and sustain treatment for HIV/AIDS, bringing their viral loads down to undetectable levels and thus not in danger of falling ill and dying, nor transmitting it to others. The benefit in for so many now able to dream of and fulfill their aspirations anew, to give of themselves and their gifts to our community, and saving what would otherwise be millions in healthcare, is substantial. This same model – housing as public health and health care -- should be replicated in other health situations. It is clear that health challenges create disconnection and marginalization – a factor in causing homelessness, but also on the flip side of the coin, being precariously housed or homeless exacerbates one’s health challenges and outcomes.
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?
The recommendations found in the 2018 More Places to Call Home report is a good guide…creating pathways for more homeownership including: appropriating resources and services for those who would otherwise be able to buy a home, with a focus on people of color; recognize and expand community land trusts, co-ops and manufactured home parks as alternatives; create partnerships with private sector actors; expand know-how and tools for those who could contemplate and plan for a home purchase; work with community banks and other financial institutions to create more and more types of mortgages; expand down payment assistance resources.

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?

Ensure that the governing board of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency is diverse. Assist the MHFA with efforts to promote their community partnerships, collaborations, deliberations and decision making. Reverse the recent trends in the legislature to give short shrift to committee hearings, to consolidate all legislation into large omnibus packages, and to restrict decision making to legislative leaders only. My own background is in the movement for economic and social justice, and am proud of my own commitment to championing legislative solutions developed by the communities and people themselves. As legislators, especially those of us who come from an advocacy and organizing background, we can be uniquely positioned to help with expanding the capacity and effectiveness of citizens and activists in designing, pushing and winning campaigns for policy changes. Additionally, legislators have the power to convene and hold hearings and town hall across the state, in accessible and more comfortable places, inviting citizens to come forward, tell their stories and share their ideas.