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No Summer Break for Habitat Housing Heroes

The Habitat Housing Hero advocates were really active during the 2017 legislative session and all that work paid off as lawmakers approved significant investments in the places Minnesotans call home.

The statewide Homes for All coalition laid the groundwork for this success with bold proposals to start the session. Here are the pieces of the Homes for All agenda that ultimately got passed:

  • $77M in bonds for housing (this is two-and-a-half times as much as was originally proposed by the Minnesota House). Habitat affiliates don’t use these dollars, but this money will be used to build and rehab affordable rental units and emergency shelter housing across Minnesota.
  • Preservation of the Challenge Fund, which is overseen by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The Challenge Fund is a flexible tool that local communities can use to create new housing units. Habitat affiliates leverage money from this fund to build homes throughout the state.
  • A one-time increase of $3.5M to the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget for housing-related programs and services. This included an extra $200,000 for emergency services, $400,000 for transitional housing, $750,000 for long-term homeless support services, and $2.15M for supportive housing for adults with serious mental illness.

Please take a moment and send Minnesota’s lawmakers a quick thank you note for all they did pass in regards to housing investments this past session.

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These are good wins, but short of the goals in the initial Homes for All agenda. We know that we will need to continue to share the message that investments in housing are critical for our state’s long-term success. We know that stable housing has a tremendous impact on education, health, and economic opportunity.

The national view

There is plenty of work to do with our lawmaking friends in Washington this summer.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson is extolling the value of homeownership. On Monday, he told FOX News’ Sean Hannity: "Home ownership is the basis for wealth creation in this country. The average net worth of a homeowner is $200,000. The average net worth of a renter is $5,000. So, we’ve got some definite work we need to do there."

He added: "We’re going to help people. We’re not just going to say, ‘You’ve got to do it.’ [or] ‘You’ve got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.’ We’re going to help people do this, but we’re going to give them the vision."

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Congress is supposed to work on, and pass, a final budget by the end of September. So, it will be interesting to see if Secretary Carson pushes back on President Trump’s proposal to cut 15% of the HUD budget.

The President has called for eliminating all funding for several HUD programs that benefit low- and moderate-income communities in terms of housing investments. These include zeroing out the budgets for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); Homeownership Opportunity Program (HOME); Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP); the CDFI fund (which oversees New Market Tax Credits); and the Corporation for National Community Service (AmeriCorps).

Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford told Business Insider: "If the White House budget were to become the actual budget — and we realize it's more of a political statement than a true budget — it would be devastating to affordable housing in the US."

All summer it will be important for our leaders in Washington to hear the message that we want to see investments in housing at a local, state and national level.

Please sign up for action alert emails and we will let you know when is the right time to contact decision makers in Washington and Minnesota in regards to making the smart move of investing in housing.

matt haugen

matt haugen

Matt Haugen has been collecting and sharing the great stories of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity as Communications Manager since 2010. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degree from Northwestern University before spending ten years writing for TV news in the Twin Cities. He’s passionate about convincing people when he’s right on things, and being educated about it when he’s not.

Topics: Advocacy

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