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Minnesota Votes for Housing 2020

Candidate responses in italics.

Name: Justin Stofferahn

City/Town: White Bear Township

Legislative District: 38

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 lack of affordable housing is an issue that poor policy has created, and it will require policy reform to help fix. We need to make smart policy and fiscal decisions to ensure people can access stable housing, which is key to our economic future as a state.

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? 

We must invest resources in expanding the availability of emergency shelter beds in Minnesota. While budget decisions are going to be difficult given the projected deficit, bonding has the ability to provide resources to communities and will minimally impact the state budget, but this is a short-term solution to the issue. As we think longer-term a key piece is making sure that work is actually creating economic security for families. Nearly 30% of Minnesota's homeless population in 2018 were working. Expanding access to mental health services and treating drug addiction as a disease instead of simply a crime can also help prevent the conditions that lead to homelessness in the first place.

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 executive order by Governor Walz and the CDC moratorium on evictions.

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?
 
It is critical to ensure we have the right rules in place to ensure lenders are fairly and transparently offering mortgages. Minnesota spends billions through the tax code promoting homeownership, but a targeted grant program to minority borrowers could have greater effectiveness. Ultimately, creating economic security and opportunity for all Minnesotans is critical to ensuring greater equity in homeownership.
 
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?
 
While not the only solution, creating conditions for more housing units to be built is a key piece of tackling this problem, particularly at a time when the state faces significant fiscal challenges. In order to reduce construction costs the Task Force laid out steps to create a larger pool of skilled workers in the construction trades, institute regulatory relief, and create efforts to spur new building technologies.
 
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?
 
Supporting increased access to emergency shelter is critical to health outcomes. Addressing the health challenges that homeless Minnesotans might face from addiction to mental health can only start to be addressed when that individual has stable housing.
 
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 have tax policies meant to encourage homeownership but that mostly reward those that already have the resources necessary to purchase a home. Converting those investments into stronger down payment assistance could make a significant difference for families. I am also supportive of using whatever tools state government has to allow alternative pathways to homeownership.
 
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 seek out their input in crafting policy, whether that is working to connect with renters directly who are often left out of important conversations, or utilizing the expertise and experience of organizations like the Minnesota Housing Partnership.