Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020
Candidate responses in italics.
Name: Esther Agbaje
Legislative District: 59B
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?
It is the role of government to provide everyone access to housing. If housing truly is a human right, then the government must begin to frame housing more as a service rather than a commodity, similar to the post office or public utilities. This is especially necessary in a state where the weather is harsh in the winters and no one should be outside in dangerously cold temperatures. Providing a safe and stable place to live should not be difficult if we care about our neighbors.
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 will focus on securing funding to build more public housing across Minnesota. The housing should also be specific to the age group, gender, family, and cultural needs of people facing housing insecurity. For those facing homelessness, Minneapolis in particular needs more beds to properly shelter its homeless residents particularly in the winter months. Organizations like The Link are already doing that work to provide rapid response and appropriate housing for youth, LGBTQ people, and families. These are the types of organizations that the state should continue to promote and partner with to address the immediate sheltering needs.
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?
Part of the reason that people are evicted for non-payment of rent is because they cannot afford the rent. This is either because of jobs that do not pay a living wage or unaffordable rents. To address wages, I will focus on increasing the minimum wage to a living wage so that people can afford a place to live. I will also focus on ensuring that rents are never more than 30 per cent of a person’s income and that prices are pegged to better measurements of income in an area. The housing crisis is now exacerbated by COVID. Until the pandemic is over, the current moratorium on evictions must be maintained. Resuming evictions will only put people on the street in the middle of a public health emergency. And with the brutal winters in Minnesota, I will act with the morality and urgency this issue demands. The state must continue to provide resources to cancel rent and mortgages so that people are not saddled with debt at the end of the pandemic. Working together, we can implement stronger eviction-prevention programs and increase legal representation so that more people can stay in their homes.