Community Alert

Joined by affordable housing advocates and community stakeholders, Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday issued an executive order creating the Governor’s Task Force on Housing.

Among the 15 core members of the newly created board is Northfielder Mar Valdecantos, a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, Northfield Affordable Housing Task Force and director of Neighbors United which works on affordable housing in Northfield.

The nonpartisan task force, comprised of experts and advocates from across Minnesota, will develop solutions to alleviate Minnesota’s housing challenge, and connect more Minnesota families with good places to live. The inability to find safe, affordable housing near job centers and good schools can be a significant barrier to employment and education opportunities for workers and families. Research further shows that children affected by housing insecurity are more likely to struggle in school.

“Too many families across Minnesota struggle to afford quality housing, forcing them to cut back on other essential needs like food, medicine, and education,” said Dayton. “This task force will develop new solutions to address Minnesota’s housing challenges, and help ensure that more families have access to safe, affordable places to live. I urge Minnesota leaders to join me in carefully reviewing and acting upon their recommendations.”

The task force will review existing housing strategies that serve Minnesotans well and identify gaps in the system. It also will consider new practices to improve housing stability, and ensure that all families, individuals, and communities have the safe and stable housing needed for success. By July 31 it will provide specific policy proposals and actions that can be taken by the executive and legislative branches of state government and the private sector to improve housing stability in the state.

“A full range of housing choices that support stability for individuals and families at all income levels, regardless of background, in every Minnesota community, is critical to equitable growth, our economic vitality and long-term success as a state,” said Catholic Charities Director of Social Justice Advocacy Acooa Ellis, who also will co-chair the new task force.

More than 554,000 Minnesota households spend at least 30 percent of their income on rent or mortgage payments. The Minnesota Housing Partnership released a report in March 2017 that found that one out of every four families in Minnesota is paying more than they can afford for housing, and more than 9,300 Minnesotans faced homelessness in 2015, including nearly 3,500 children.

“Affordable housing is by far one of the most pressing matters for the well being of a community,” said Valdecantos, who plans to interview a number of people on the topic to more fully inform herself before the task force’s Jan. 12 meeting.

“Affordable housing is a term that is a somewhat political charged term that has negative connotations. Unfortunately it doesn’t convey to people the need to help,” she said in an email. “…The need is very real for so many groups. My intent at the Governor’s task force is to bring all these needs and groups into the equation and to explore creative solutions that will satisfy developers, municipalities and individuals.”

A reliable supply of affordable housing has historically been a competitive advantage for Minnesota – ensuring that growing businesses had access to the workers they needed. However, increasing housing costs have priced many families out of housing near quality employment and educational opportunities.

The task force includes 15 core members and 13 ex-officio members, representing affordable housing developers, housing industry experts from the nonprofit and private sectors, local government officials, state legislators, business leaders and housing advocates from across Minnesota.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy

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