Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Athena Hollins

City/Town: St Paul

Legislative District: 66B

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 government needs to ensure that we have statewide investments and strategies to address homelessness and the increasing home prices that displace our neighbors. We need the government to improve our current housing stock, and we need to hold predators in the housing market accountable for their actions and create policy to prevent future abuse.

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? 

Immediately, we need to increase the amount of emergency housing that is available to these individuals. However, temporary, emergency housing is only a short-term solution. We need to make sure that they have the support to find housing and work to eliminate some of the barriers that have made it difficult for those individuals to find housing. In the long-term, we need to take steps to increase the housing stock, whether it is through bonding bills at the state level or making sure that cities are able to have sufficient funds for the development of affordable housing units and individual aid.

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?

We need an extended moratorium on evictions until we have a structural solution that protects people’s ability to stay in their homes through the duration of the COVID crisis.

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?

We need to create greater opportunities for communities of color to have an equal opportunity to own a home. This not only requires additional education concerning existing programs, but increased funding and aggressive targets to make sure that we reduce the gap. Furthermore, we need to crack down on discriminatory practices that are still being used in real estate.

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?
Immediately, we need to pass a bonding bill that increases our housing stock, with an emphasis on deeply affordable housing. I’m glad to see that the legislature is currently considering a significant investment in housing, but I am profoundly disappointed that this has been delayed. I’d also like to see cities and counties have the financial support they need from the state to meet their specific housing needs.
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?
Evidence suggests that stable housing has an incredibly strong link to health - that means taking the steps I referenced previously about responding to homelessness and a moratorium on evictions. We also need to make sure that current dwellings meet environmental health standards, and more education and funding must be provided for that.
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?
We should pursue significant investments in alternative ownership models to see what works best for Minnesota. Cooperative ownership and community or non-profit owned land trusts are some ideas to consider, but I am open to exploring a variety of approaches and I’m open to innovation to make sure that home ownership can become a reality for more Minnesotans
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? 

We need to do more to solicit input from the community. I know I was privileged to take part in St. Paul’s process for crafting its recent slate of renter protections. I was also pleased to see so many of our elected leaders be present to listen at those sessions. I think we could model that more at the state level, and it should be an expectation that elected officials are showing up to listen at these events. I also plan on partnering with organizations that address housing and homelessness, to learn more about the real-world barriers that their clients face.