Minnesota’s Homes for All Coalition Wins Big Victory in State Budget

When Governor Mark Dayton (D) signed Minnesota’s state budget on May 23, support for housing and homeless programs increased by $33 million, up 36% from the prior biennium budget. This victory reflects the policy priorities and significant work of the Homes for All Coalition, a campaign composed of more than 80 statewide organizations spearheaded by the Minnesota Housing Partnership and Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, both NLIHC State Coalition Partners.The $33 million in new funding bolsters several critical state programs. The largest increases in the housing budget are directed to the Challenge Fund, which supports the development, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing, and to the Housing Trust Fund, which provides rental assistance to formerly homeless households. Meanwhile, the Department of Human Services’ budget provides significant increases to the Homeless Youth Act and Long-Term Supportive Services, with $4 million and $2 million in additional funds, respectively. The Homes for All Coalition attributes it significant progress to its strategic organizing approaches. It made sure to have ambassadors in every legislative district, and brought a larger group of legislative leaders to the issue of housing. Overall, Homes for All legislation had 71 different authors from both sides of the aisle. With many state legislators elected for the first time in 2012, Homes for All swiftly established working relationships before the legislative session had even begun.Another key to success was the inclusion of a broad diversity of organizations. The coalition brought together support from advocacy groups, service providers, churches, local governments, educators, developers and labor unions. Prior to the legislative session, the coalition negotiated a budget proposal to which all campaign members committed their support. This allowed for a varied approach to the housing issue as discussion included such topics as jobs created by affordable housing development and school performance outcomes that would increase by ensuring that students have secure and stable homes.Homes for All also emphasized mobilizing local leaders to the cause of housing. One big success was a commentary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that featured the heads of five large school districts calling for expanded housing resources.Elizabeth Hinz, Minneapolis Public School District Liaison for Homeless and Highly Mobile Students, was glad to have children as one focal point of the campaign. “This legislation will make safe, secure, affordable housing possible for many more children and youth throughout our state. They will be able to learn and achieve in school without being distracted by worry for their families.”Homes for All’s hard work during the 2013 budget process created strong relationships throughout the state capitol that should be beneficial for future legislative efforts. Representative Karen Clark, chair of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee, said she was pleased to work with the coalition’s advocates. “The progress we made this year would not have been possible without the strong grassroots movement of Homes for All. I’m proud to have worked with this coalition.”The process and success of Homes for All can be well used as a model by advocates in other states that seek to achieve similar gains in their budget efforts. For more information, contact: Chip Halbach, executive director, Minnesota Housing Partnership, [email protected]; or Liz Kuoppala, executive director, Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, [email protected].