On May 20, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) signed a bill providing $100 million in state bonds for affordable housing. NLIHC State Coalition Partners, the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP) and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (MCH), are celebrating this victory, achieved through their leadership of the Homes for All alliance. The unprecedented amount will help alleviate housing cost burdens for thousands of Minnesota households paying more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.
Governor Dayton’s initial FY15 budget request of $50 million in bonds for affordable housing development matched advocates’ 2013 request. However, the Homes for All alliance sought to double the Governor’s request because of concerns that the recent business boom would continue to increase the need for housing affordable to extremely low income households (see Memo, 3/28). The $100 million investment, $80 million for Housing Infrastructure bonds and $20 million for General Obligation Bonds, is expected to build or rehabilitate more than 5,000 affordable housing units and help stabilize communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis.
In February, advocates secured their $100 million request in the initial House and Senate Capital Investment Committee’s proposals. The Homes for All alliance continued to advocate throughout the legislative session by directly engaging legislators, educating the public, and mobilizing likely and unlikely coalition partners. For instance, advocates hosted state capitol events including Homeless Day on the Hill, Housing Development Day on the Hill, and Habitat on the Hill, all of which included asking legislators to include the $100 million housing bond request in the final bill.
The Homes for All communications team, co-chaired by MHP and MCH staff, held a communications training to help advocates effectively message the campaign to multiple audiences. The training helped campaign allies explain affordable housing need and make “elevator pitches” (conveying a message in a very short period of time). Trainers suggested that advocates point to developments in the pipeline so that legislators could better grasp how bond money would be put to good use. Trainings encouraged advocates to use facts and data to express the urgent need for affordable housing, as well as the potential leveraging value of bond funding. For instance, Homes for All materials noted that every $1 of state funding for preserving Section 8 or Public Housing leverages $4 in future federal funding.
Legislative District Profile sheets created by MHP allowed the Homes for All alliance to demonstrate housing and homeless concerns by state district. For example, in District 64A, comprising the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, 53% of all renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent, and 100,764 foreclosures occurred since 2005. In District 64A, 6,711 homeless people were counted on a single night, including 3,107 children and youth aged 21 or under. According to MHP, no Minnesota district has enough affordable homes to meet the needs of renters.
In a great show of support, 33 House legislators signed on as co-authors to the bill, and the $100 million request remained strong in the House. However, the bill passed out of the Senate Capital Investment Committee only included $80 million for housing bonds. Thousands of advocates used social media, letters, and direct meetings to finally convince Senators to commit to including the full $100 million request in the final bill.
MHP and MCH applaud the mental health advocates, teachers, housing organizations, faith-based groups, and local governments that came together to secure funding to address the growing housing crisis.
"This victory in providing housing for thousands of low income Minnesotans could not have come about without the commitment of thousands of advocates who reminded legislators that home really is the foundation for success," said Liz Kuoppala, Executive Director of MCH.
"With rising rents and falling incomes for renters, we are in a critical and challenging time," added Chip Halbach, MHP’s Executive Director. "But passage of this bill demonstrates a new level of commitment toward meeting the need of Minnesotans for decent and affordable homes."