Home. A simple word, but the word many of us revolve around.
I think of my own home in North Mankato where I first moved with my wife, Jill, and we raised our four kids. I think of my neighbors and the many homes that have gone up around us in the neighborhood. The idea of home is synonymous with community, as we well know individuals who have stable housing tend to live better lives and, in turn, provide more for our community — it’s easier to pour from a full cup.
From my time on the Agriculture, Housing, and Rural Development Committee, my role on the Governor’s Housing Task Force, and helping to lead the discussion in Housing negotiations for our Senate Caucus, I have understood that stable housing leads to better education outcomes, reduction in poverty, more stable employment, and promotes public health.
These positive effects of stable housing are why you see legislatures across the country make smart investments in housing for our communities. Stable housing provides a large return on every dollar you put in. That is why with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical we invest in affordable housing for working families.
More than 600,000 people in Minnesota are unemployed right now, and many who were unable to collect unemployment or work saw their bills start to pile up. On March 18, the President of the United States put a foreclosure and eviction moratorium on until April 30. In addition, Gov. Tim Walz issued an Executive Order which extends those protections until the order is removed or his emergency powers cease. The bigger question, once those emergency powers are lifted, what happens to the Minnesotans who aren’t able to pay for housing because of the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Legislature started by passing more than $32 million in funding this session to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness and shelters. The bill included:
$26.5 million in emergency services grants for providing additional shelter space, purchasing vouchers for the cost of motel or hotel, purchasing personal protective equipment for shelters, hiring staff necessary to protect the health and wellness of people experiencing homelessness.
$5.6 million for a 15% increase in Housing Supports for rental housing to comply with federal and state health and safety guidance.
In the final hours of the regular legislative session, we were unable to pass housing infrastructure bonds and millions in emergency housing assistance (HF 2542). While the funding was sufficient, the bill contained a poison pill that reduced safety and energy efficiency in building code.
I was hopeful the special session would provide an opportunity to move additional housing assistance funds forward. Unfortunately, we are hearing more of the same — tying bad legislation that chips away at housing safety in exchange for infrastructure bonds and housing assistance. This was disappointing. Moving forward, we cannot allow partisan politics to imperil hundreds of millions of dollars for housing assistance and opportunities that would have benefited every corner of the state.
However, I cannot vote for measures that jeopardize the safety of Minnesota families. Families that are desperately looking for a place they too can call home. I will continue bipartisan work on this incredibly important issue, because houses become homes, homes belong to communities, and strong communities are safer communities.