2/3 – Homes for All commends Governor Walz on prioritizing housing in his supplemental budget

Over 550,000 households in Minnesota pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs, leaving families unable to afford basic costs like food and health care. And, we face a critical need for housing particularly for extremely low-income renters, those at or below 30% of the area median income, as there’s a shortage of over 105,000 affordable units for these renters across the state.And this represents just a small snapshot of the housing needs facing our state.

Last week, Governor Tim Walz released his 2022 Supplemental Budget request, found here. At Homes For All, we are very excited to see deep investments across the housing continuum that can meet these critical needs, from additional support for people experiencing homelessness, to expanded emergency housing and rental assistance, to creating more opportunities for homeownership.

As we have said since March 2020, COVID-19 did not create the housing crisis in Minnesota, but it did exacerbate it. And, it highlighted and worsened the disparities and inequities already prominent in our housing system. We need bold, deep investments in housing to meet the deep needs across the state, and we believe Governor Walz’s budget recommendation was a step in the right direction. We have highlighted some of the key provisions below.

Support for shelters and people experiencing homelessness- Governor Walz proposed increases in the Emergency Services Program (ESP), Transitional Housing, and Homeless Youth Act, all which support people experiencing homelessness and provide additional funding to increase our shelter capacity and provide temporary housing.

Rental assistance and support for renters- Included in the Governor’s budget is large increases in funding for rental assistance through the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP), Homework starts with Home, and Housing Trust Fund. The administration also is proposing policy changes to support renters such having evictions removed from a renter’s record after three years. 

Opportunities for homeowners- Minnesota has one of the worst homeownership disparities in the country, with only 25% of Black households owning their own home compared to 77% of white households. The budget recommendation includes additional funding for down payment assistance, affordable homeownership opportunities, and building additional homes. 

Preserving and repairing our current housing stock – Having safe and stable housing is a critical, and sometimes forgotten, part of the housing continuum. People deserve housing without health hazards like mold and asbestos and that is not in disrepair. The Governor makes critical investments in preserving and rehabbing our housing stock and reducing energy costs and utilization through weatherization.

 

6/11 – HOME Line: need for an eviction off-ramp is clear

 Governor Walz ordered the eviction moratorium in March 2020 to help people stay safe in their homes and combat the spread of COVID-19. Throughout the past year, the eviction moratorium has helped saved countless lives and prevented further community spread of the virus. Additionally, we know the economic impacts of the pandemic continue to impact Minnesota households and many are now faced with potential eviction as the end of the moratorium is debated.

On June 9th, Homes for All partner HOME Line participated in a press conference at the State Capitol to discuss the critical importance of an end or “off-ramp” of the eviction suspension to have meaningful protections—so tenants know about assistance and it can arrive in time.

They were joined by housing advocates, landlords, legislators and local policymakers—and they shared examples of the trauma their clients are facing. All of the following stories below are from tenants who spoke to HOME Line in the past week & who volunteered to share their experiences:

Crystal from Rochester has a health condition that puts her significantly more at risk from COVID. Everyday she begins her job search at 4:30am, trying to find some way to cover the past 3 months of rent that’s piled up. She no longer qualifies for unemployment, and is waiting on the rental assistance money desperately.

Brittany from Mound had always paid rent on time, but her life has been “pure chaos” since her husband lost his job in November due to COVID. On June 1st, the landlord showed up with a new group of tenants ready to move in. While she was able to get them to leave, she is worried about what her landlord will try next. To prevent her and her three kids from becoming homeless because of forces completely outside of their control, she applied for rental assistance back in April and is waiting.

Sierra from Mankato got COVID In December, missed work, and her compensation was a third of what she usually makes. Her company wasn’t taking the necessary precautions and this compromised Sierra’s employment. Sierra is back to work now and applied for rental assistance a month and a half ago. Yesterday her landlord sent a text saying she “has seven days to pay up or they’ll take the keys.” She is very frightened and unsure of what her landlord might do.

Jon from Fergus Falls is a single father whose daughter, as a result of quarantines from school, had to be at home full-time. That meant he had to take time off of work to be with her, which led to him losing his job, making it impossible to pay rent. Every day Jon was stressed wondering if that was the month the Executive Orders would end and he would get evicted. Now, because he’s still behind, his landlord is threatening to use the current “family move-in” exception to remove them. After giving Jon notice to move out in July, the landlord refuses to have any conversations about what is going on.

Lutisha and Deandre in St. Paul are behind on rent and applied for rental assistance in April. Although their landlord has been fairly sympathetic of their situation, the landlord’s tone is starting to change.  Recently, their landlord has demanded that they pay their rent by June 10th or the landlord will have to “take legal action.” Lutisha is worried about being evicted before the rental assistance program can pay her landlord.

Jessica from Faribault is a participant in the Section 8 voucher program. If she is evicted, she would lose that assistance. She has two kids under the age of 10, who have been distance learning for most of the pandemic, and she’s had to give up work opportunities to stay home and teach them. She has an auto-immune disorder, and is at more risk from COVID. She’s been waiting for 3 months for word back from her rental assistance application, and is getting increasingly worried that she’s going to lose her voucher even if the money comes through.

Carrie from St. Paul has lived at her current home for 15 years. Living at that house has really helped to stabilize her life, raise her kids as a single mother, and start a successful career. She is a massage therapist and has been in that business for over a decade. Carrie worked for the same employer in downtown Minneapolis for over 6 years, until she was laid off because of the pandemic and civil unrest. She applied for rental assistance when it first opened, and did not expect to have to wait so long. The amount that she owes to her landlord keeps increasing as she waits. Her landlord just recently increased the rent to make up for the lost income during the pandemic. This could cause Carrie to have to move away from the home she has lived in for 15 years and has been so vital to her success in life.

We want to thank these tenants for sharing about their housing concerns.

Evictions and displacement simply shouldn’t happen when there are $672 million dollars lined up to prevent it. These tenants and thousands more are relying on the legislature to do the right thing, and they’re not alone landlords, the courts, and other housing stakeholders are relying on a predictable, measured off-ramp. That’s why the focus of legislation to end the suspension cannot be on when evictions begin, but rather when assistance can easily be secured to keep renters housed.

This can be done by requiring proper notice provided by landlords to tenants regarding rent arrears & available assistance, while implementing a process preventing displacement for those who might be eligible but who are unaware, trying to apply, or have applied and are waiting.

If you need help covering your rent and utilities, please apply at RentHelpMN.org, it is imperative that you get an application in as soon as possible.

As always if you have questions about your rights as a renter in MN, call/email HOME Line’s hotline:

Phone: 612-728-5767

Email: http://homelinemn.org/email

7/1 – Celebrating 10 years with big wins!

 Homes for All – 2021 End of Session Budget and Policy Recap

By: Kari Johnson, Zack Eichten and Michael Dahl

Homes for All Policy Co-Chairs

The Homes for All coalition formed 10 years ago with a goal of bringing collective statewide advocacy to the Minnesota Capitol. Since then, Homes for All has grown to 270+ organizations reaching every corner of the state representing nonprofits, direct service providers, faith communities, the private sector, local municipalities, and philanthropic organizations – all working in unison to amplify statewide affordable housing needs at the Capitol. Throughout the past decade, the Homes for All coalition has had major successes including over $500 million in bonding investments, increased appropriations to existing and new programs, policy changes that better meet the needs of communities across our state, and Homes for All statewide advocacy has brought increased attention to the affordable housing needs across the continuum.

Throughout the 2021 regular and special session, Homes for All advocates were able to weigh-in on budget and policy priorities. Advocates met with lawmakers over zoom, testified in multiple hearings, held two online rallies filled with impactful stories and sent letters and hundreds of emails.

Your advocacy paid-off and we are celebrating big wins this year, which coincides with our 10th anniversary! Below are the coalition’s priorities areas for our 2021 legislative agenda and what we were able to accomplish.

  1. Protecting Rights and Advancing Equity

  • Shelter Provider Task Force: Emergency shelter saves lives, but our shelter system is not working for everyone. Inspired by the Shelter Residents Bill of Rights, the Task Force on Shelter will bring together key stakeholders, including former shelter guests and rural shelter providers, to develop recommendations that will strengthen Minnesota’s emergency shelter system and ensure that everyone has a safe and dignified place to stay while they seek permanent housing. $200,000 in funding for this task force was included in the Omnibus Housing Finance and Policy Bill. The Homes for All Coalition looks forward to returning next session with the recommendations from the Shelter Task Force to implement changes.

  • COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium Off-Ramp: Homes for All advocates have been especially concerned with the potential for a wave of evictions as the pandemic winds down. The eviction moratorium phaseout is a solid compromise and Homes for All wants to acknowledge that the policies in the bill will serve Minnesota renters better than if Executive Order 20-79 and/or the peacetime emergency were to end abruptly without any guardrails. Here are some key details:

    • When does the phaseout start? 

      • The Eviction Moratorium Phaseout began on June 30th.

    • What must the 15 day notice include?

      • The notice must be in writing and given to the tenant at least 15 days prior to the landlord filing the eviction action for non-payment of rent. It must include a statement that the state eviction moratorium has ended and that the tenant may soon be subject to an eviction action. It must state the total amount of past due rent, and include a statement that the tenant may be eligible for financial assistance through RentHelpMN.org or by calling 2-1-1.

    • What if I have a pending rental assistance application?

      • A pending rental assistance application can protect tenants from eviction for nonpayment of rent while they are waiting for their application to be processed and the money paid out. This protection lasts until June 1, 2022, but only for those tenants who have pending applications, so applying for this assistance is an essential first step.

    • What is the timeline and where do I find more information?

      • Check out this blog post by Homes for All member and partner HOME Line: https://homelinemn.org/phaseout/

      • HOME Line also runs a free tenant hotline for all of Minnesota, call: 612-728-5767 or Toll-free from Greater Minnesota: 866-866-3546.

  1. Providing Shelter and Support

  • Emergency Services Program: The Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill will fund the Emergency Services Program at $12 million/biennium, on an ongoing basis. As a reminder, the current base budget for this program is a mere $844,000/year. This money will be able to be used for shelter operations, including transportation, child care, mental and behavioral health care, and much more. This is a massive victory for getting people into stable housing quickly. 

  • Housing Support Program: Two important accomplishments are included in the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill: a waiver in the absence policy for people seeking medical treatment and an increase to the base rate. The base rate for Housing Support will increase by $50/month, beginning in July of 2022. In addition, there is agreement on extending the absence waiver, so people seeking medical treatment don’t need to choose between housing and healthcare. Both of these victories are critical for ensuring greater housing stability in the Housing Supports program. 

  • Shelter Capital: The Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill provides $1 million/year for the next four years in Shelter Capital dollars. It is currently unclear if the funding will extend past the four years but these resources will provide critical funding to preserve shelter infrastructure across the State. These funds will make it possible for shelters to make essential investments that promote health, safety and accessibility. 

  1. Creating and Preserving More Homes

  • Housing Infrastructure Bonds (HIBs): The consistent investments through HIBs in recent years continues to make a significant impact on Minnesota’s affordable housing market. The Omnibus Housing Finance and Policy Bill includes $100 million in HIBs. The coalition advocated up to the last minute for the deeper affordability new eligible use without supportive services and the inclusion of Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) preservation as a new use as well. These two types of affordable housing are extremely difficult to finance and we were hoping to finally see investments made in those areas through appropriations or HIBs during the 2021 legislative session. 

  • 4d Tax Classification “Reset” and 2 Year “Freeze”: The Omnibus Taxes Bill included a reset of the 4d first tier rate back to the 2014 number of $100,000 and will be held at that rate for tax years 2022 and 2023. The bill also includes language mandating a study due by January 2022 on the best path forward regarding 4d properties and the tax classification rate. Since 2014, the second-tier rate reduction “kick-in” has risen from $100,000 to $174,000 (or 74 percent). In 2014, no one imagined the dramatic increase in property tax valuations that have occurred. The rising valuations means the value of the second tier has provided less and less benefit, putting more and more stress on affordable housing providers to increase rents. 

  • Affordable Housing Tax Credit: The Omnibus Taxes Bill also established the Affordable Housing Tax Credit at $10 million annually for the next 6 years, making this the largest new and ongoing investment to support affordable housing development and preservation since 2013. This new program not only creates more predictable funding, but also provides an opportunity to incentivize broader public participation in achieving the affordable housing needs in communities across Minnesota. This program is flexible to meet the needs of individual communities and can be used as a stand-alone program or paired with other existing financing tools. The tax credit supports deeper affordability with 35% of funds reserved for households at or below 50% AMI and it includes set asides for communities with populations smaller than 2,500 and single-family housing.  Homes for All is excited to see this program in action in the coming years. 

  1. Advancing Ownership and Wealth-Building

  • Workforce Homeownership Investments: The Omnibus Housing Finance and Policy Bill included a significant increase in investments to support homeownership development and preservation. This critical funding will help increase the supply of homes available to lower income, but income ready, households. It is no secret that Minnesota’s racial homeownership disparity is embarrassingly high. State resources are one of the main ways to make progress towards helping BIPOC households realize homeownership opportunities, and it makes sense then to invest more in the programs that can make a difference. Additionally, a portion of the  $100 million in HIBs is allocated to support Single Family Homeownership ($18.33 million) and Manufactured Home Park Acquisition and Infrastructure ($15 million). 

Other Investments: While not explicitly on Homes for All’s agenda this year, investments in the Challenge Program, Local Housing Trust Fund Match and Manufactured Housing Infrastructure are all programs we have supported in recent years and received funding increases through the Omnibus Housing Finance and Policy Bill. The Omnibus Taxes Bill also included a new notable housing investment this year (two mentioned above) and also a program providing aid to counties with a Homeless Youth Prevention Credit at $40 million per biennium, which is the largest new investment in housing in over a decade . See the projected county by county aid here.

We are thankful for all of these investments and policy changes — we are confident that they will make a meaningful impact in communities across Minnesota. Thank you to all the advocates for continuing to show up and the important work you do every day!

 

5/26 – Action Needed: Tax Committee

Homes for All was pleased to see a number of housing investments proposed in both the Senate and House  Tax Bills during the 2021 regular session. As lawmakers continue to finalize their work, we need your help to finally get new investments in affordable housing across the finish line. 

Please take action now by clicking here

For context, here are some things in the mix within the Tax Bills:

  • Workforce Homeownership Investments through Capture of the Mortgage Registry & Deed Tax

  • 4d Tax Classification Rate Simplification

  • Affordable Housing Tax Credit

  • Expansion of the Renters Credit

  • Homeless Youth Prevention Credit

Thanks for advocating with Homes for All!

05/13 H4A calls for Investments in the Housing Continuum through Federal Funds

On May 13, 2021 the Homes for All Coalition Co-Chairs, Pastor Sue Koesterman & Chad Adams sent a letter requesting federal funding coming to Minnesota from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP), be utilized for significant investments in the affordable housing continuum.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of so many Minnesotans, the Homes for All Coalition is grateful for your commitment to helping households find or maintain safe, stable and accessible housing throughout this past year through eviction protections, shelter support and housing assistance. As you contemplate final budget negotiations and how best to utilize federal funding coming to Minnesota from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP), the statewide Homes for All coalition would like to make the case for significant investments in the affordable housing continuum. The pandemic has further highlighted disparities that exist in communities across the state, especially for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and it is increasingly clear that housing stability is critical to addressing those disparities head on. 

We have the chance to dramatically change Minnesota’s housing landscape by taking advantage of the American Rescue Plan funds coming to the state. We can preserve thousands of affordable homes and work to close racial disparities and strengthen our affordable housing continuum for decades to come – with a significant return on investment. ARP Funds are available through end of 2024, so all funding recommendations could be utilized over the course of 3 years or after other federal allocations expire.”

Read the letter outlining Homes for All’s updated request for American Rescue Plan funds, here.