Guest blog by Pam Johnson
Policy and Advocacy Manager at Twin Cities Habitat
Over the last few months, Twin Cities Habitat housing advocates have been advocating at the State Capitol for our affordable housing legislative priorities. How did our hard work pay off? Read more to find out!
The Legislative Session ended just before a self-imposed 7:00 a.m. deadline on Saturday, May 25, following a one-day and all-night Special Session to process nine major bills that comprise the $48 Billion 2020-21 biennial state budget. Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman, and Senate Majority Leader Gazelka negotiated for long hours with each other and their key committee chairs, each ultimately agreeing to give up some of their positions on bills in exchange for passage of top priorities. Governor Walz and Speaker Hortman secured an early education funding increase and prevented the sunset of a health care providers tax that funds affordable health care. Majority Leader Gazelka prevented a 20-cent/gallon tax hike and reduced the health care provider tax from 2% to 1.8%. For a more in-depth overview, check out this Associated Press article.
Thanks to your advocacy, in partnership with the Homes for All coalition, we achieved some strong wins in the affordable housing arena! Also, new initiatives such as Prosperity’s Front Door brought additional support from the business community and other statewide leaders who recognize the nexus between affordable housing and economic development and growth.
Overall, Minnesotans will see a nearly $80 million increase in new housing investments for affordable homeownership, rental assistance, and emergency shelter. This historic and significant outcome was hard fought, and includes $60 million for housing bonding, $15 million for MN Housing-supported programs, $3 million for emergency housing support through the Department of Human Services, and $400,000 to reinstate a housing credit for manufactured home park homeowners. The deal resulted in a 10% budget boost for Minnesota Housing —the largest increase of any state agency!
Our collective efforts to secure an ongoing source of revenue through the Workforce Home Ownership Minnesota (WHOM) bill yielded a $500,000 award for 2020 and ongoing $500,000 per biennium to the MN Housing budget! This is fantastic—as it means that this funding is now considered part of the ongoing biennial budget, with the potential for growth in coming years. Despite strong support for WHOM funding in the Tax Bill, it did not appear in final tax agreements that were largely focused on conforming to federal changes, an income tax rate cut to the second lowest tax bracket, state business property taxes cuts, protecting the medical provider tax, and defeating a gas tax.
Here is the breakdown of housing related funding that you helped to secure during the 2019 Legislative Session:
- Housing Bonding: $60 Million - this was the only bonding bill passed this Session, despite plans for $500 Million in statewide infrastructure improvements in a non-bonding year. The funds will be used to build and preserve affordable housing.
MN Housing Finance Budget
- Workforce Homeownership MN (WHOM): $500,000 appropriation first year + $500,000/biennial base increase! This is funding used statewide by Habitat and other affordable homeownership developers to partner with low-income homeowners in the coming years.
- Challenge Program: received a one-time $5 Million boost—despite a proposed cut! Challenge is a flexible tool used by Habitat affiliates and other nonprofits statewide for the development and preservation of multi- and single-family housing.
- Manufactured Home Grants: received a $2 Million base budget increase. These funds support statewide manufactured home park development and preservation, and ownership opportunities to Minnesota’s lowest income homeowners.
- Homework Starts with Home: received a $3.5 Million base budget increase to provide rental assistance for adults and youth at risk of experiencing homelessness.
- Family Homeless Prevention & Assistance Program (FHPAP): received a $3.5M base budget increase to support collaborative work between schools, housing organizations, and local governments to stabilize families with students experiencing homelessness.
- Bridges: received a $500,00 base budget boost funding support to stabilize tenants with mental health challenges.
- Local Housing Trust Fund: the only Homes for All coalition provision in the MN Housing budget not included in the final budget. These resources would provide match funding and support to community-based housing trust fund efforts statewide.
Department of Human Services
- Emergency Services Program (ESP): received a one-time $3 million increase to fund emergency shelters and homeless support programs.
Thank you again for your advocacy—it made a difference! There's always advocacy work to do even when the state legislature isn't in session—sign up for advocacy action alerts to learn when your voice can make a difference for housing.