The 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature started on Tuesday, January 6th. Last session, TCHFH worked with over 150 other organizations in the Homes for All coalition, to get a $100 million bonding bill passed to support affordable housing efforts. It was great to celebrate that kind of success, but with so much need still out there, we can’t sit on our laurels. For the 2015 session, TCHFH and its partners in Homes for All have a new set of advocacy goals. Let’s take a look at the TCHFH agenda.
To start, it always helps to remind ourselves of why we do what we do. The TCHFH mission is to “Eliminate poverty housing from the Twin Cities and to make decent, affordable shelter for all people a matter of conscience.” Our vision statement says we seek “A Twin Cities region where hard-working families can own homes in healthy neighborhoods with access to jobs, transportation, and quality schools.” Simply put, we believe everyone should have a decent place to live. However, we also understand that housing is not fully ensured by just building houses.
Today, 1 in 8 Minnesota households pay more than half of their income for housing; homeless rates have more than tripled over the past 20 years; and almost half of homeless Minnesotans are babies, children, or young adults. The 200 homes TCHFH volunteers build or work on each year has a huge impact of families and their communities, but the problem is much larger than what we can do alone. To achieve our mission, we need to get more people talking about housing and spreading the word about creative solutions.
It will take HFH Affiliates 5,536 years to solve the current problem by building one house at a time. 5,536 years.
To reach our goal, we need to multiply our impact, and that happens by inspiring more people to become advocates for policy and systems change.
In 2014, Habitat Housing Heroes contacted their legislators over 4000 times by postcards, letters, and in-person meetings, 111 participated in Habitat on the Hill, and 30 constituents went to the Capitol outside of Habitat on the Hill. When you include the effort of the Housing for All coalition, there were over 13000 combined correspondences, with 91 percent of all legislators being contacted. These efforts resulted in a $100 million housing bonding bill that impacted housing statewide.
For 2015 our goal is to get appropriations increased by a total of $39 million for rehabbing foreclosed homes; preserving and creating more affordable housing; funding housing with supportive services, and providing homelessness relief. The $39 million is broken down with a $19.5 million increase in funding for Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, and a $19.5 million increase for the Department of Human Services.
With your help, we can make it happen. Here are a few specific things you can do this legislative session:
- Sign up to be a Habitat Housing Hero! Provide us your email address at www.tchabitat.org/advocate and click on the register here button and we will notify you of opportunities to raise your voice in support of safe and stable housing opportunities to raise your voice in support of safe and stable housing.
- Participate in Habitat OFF the Hill – MN 2015! March 3, 2015 from 6pm to 8:30pm at Twin Cities Habitat headquarters, 1954 University Avenue, St. Paul. At this family friendly event, you will learn specifics about what is going on at the Capitol and how Twin Cities Habitat is working in partnership with Homes for All to support a $39 million appropriations increase for safe, stable, and affordable housing across the state. You will also be able to take action, as Housing Hero, at that moment, to contact your legislators. For those who have been to Habitat on the Hill -- MN in the past, we're excited to be doing our annual advocacy event a little differently this year, especially given the construction at the Capitol. There will be fun activities for the kids, so please bring your family and friends! Click on the link at sign-up to be Housing Hero.
- Participate in our April Challenge – Take an hour from any day in April to visit with your legislator at the Capitol. You will be accompanied by one of our advocacy specialists who will provide you with your Housing Hero t-shirt and all the information you need to make it easy and effective. Your presence at the Capitol is incredibly important!
The 2015 legislative session is just getting started, but time flies quickly, and we need every day, and every voice, we can get if we hope to accomplish our legislative goals this year. It would be nice to think we can take a rest after such a successful year in 2014, but we can’t afford to rest, or be quiet, until every person has a safe, stable home to live in.
One voice might or might not be heard, but ten thousand voices create a roar that can’t be ignored. Can we count on you adding your voice this year? Your voice really matters! Sign up to be a Housing Hero today! www.tchabitat.org/advocate.