On March 6, more than 600 advocates visited the Minnesota State Capitol to promote proposals to help eliminate homelessness in the state. The annual Homeless Day on the Hill was organized by the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner. One of the top requests was support for a $100 million increase for housing in the state’s bonding bill. The Homes for All Coalition, led by MCH and the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP), another NLIHC State Partner, initiated the unprecedented request, which has been included in both the House and Senate Capital Investment Committee’s bonding proposals.
In 2013, the Homes for All Coalition secured $33 million in new funding for housing and homeless programs, representing a 36% increase from the prior biennium budget (see Memo, 6/7). Advocates are capitalizing on the momentum of the 2013 victory with the hope of securing additional resources.
Governor Mark Dayton (D) has proposed $50 million of the state’s FY15 bonds for affordable housing development, matching the request advocates made in 2013. However, advocates say the need for affordable homes for extremely low income households is rapidly increasing as businesses are booming and hundreds of workers are competing for housing. MCH reports that more than 14,000 Minnesotans are homeless on any given night. Half of the state’s counties would need to at least double their affordable rental housing stocks to meet basic needs, according to an analysis completed by MHP in 2013.
The $100 investment, $80 million in Housing Infrastructure bonds and $20 million in General Obligation Bonds, would build or rehabilitate more than 5,000 supportive and federally assisted affordable housing units, which would also help stabilize communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis. “The homeless problem is not going away, so we are asking for $100 million this year,” said Representative Alice Hausman (DFL) in a press conference with MCH executive director Liz Kuoppala.
MCH scheduled 151 visits for advocates to promote the Homes for All agenda, in addition to the Prosperity for All campaign, which seeks legislation to remove education and training barriers for parents enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the state’s TANF program. MCH and their allies are also seeking an increase to the state hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50, indexed to inflation.
Participants also expressed support for the bond request at a hearing of the Senate Investment Committee, which later included the amount in their bond proposal. “This kind of ask—$100 million— is not unreasonable,” said Senate President Sandy Pappas (DFL) in a video released by the Minnesota Senate Democratic Farm Labor Caucus. “Because we need the whole continuum of housing, not just for permanent situations for the homeless, but for the elderly, for veterans, for single moms…they all need to have affordable and decent places to live.” The video also featured two women experiencing homelessness who testified at the hearing.
The House and Senate will finalize their bonding bills over the next several weeks. Advocates have several events lined up to keep housing on the minds of legislators. These include Habitat Day on the Hill in early April and a letter to the editor campaign at the end of April. Advocates held Developer Day on the Hill March 27.
MCH attributes the success of their lobby day to thorough planning, detailed advocacy trainings, and an increased will to address homelessness that extends beyond the affordable housing and homelessness community. MCH also utilized social media to promote the event and highlight the concerns raised.
“We started by getting the housing and homeless advocates working on a shared agenda a few years ago and the momentum has really built from there to include educators and lawmakers and business leaders. We’ve got a lot of work to do this session, but we’re excited by the momentum,” said Liz Kuoppala, MCH Executive Director.
For more information contact Kenza Hadj-Moussa at, firstname.lastname@example.org.