In the 2017 legislative session housing issues were pushed to the forefront of discussions and when the dust settled, several policy changes were signed into law. The catalyst for the discussion was the Minnesota Homeownership Initiative advocacy plan, which included all of the staples of modern advocacy: grassroots engagement, issue advertisements, dynamic social media presence, market research, media outreach, and selection of established housing champions to shepherd the issues.
Housing First Minnesota’s David Siegel said the initiative was the first of its kind and that it was necessary given the challenges facing the housing market.
“The steep climb for first-time homebuyers to get into the housing market is something that affects all of us in some fashion. Couple that with the surging regulatory costs that impact the base price for all new homes; we knew we had to do something bold.”
Buoyed by a steady stream of issue ads from the Homeownership Alliance and the Housing First Network, the First-Time Home Buyer Savings Account proposal served as a flagship issue that resonated with the public. With issue briefs and social media updates this issue was highlighted throughout the session.
The Minnesota REALTORS conducted a statewide poll which found that 85 percent of Minnesotans viewed buying a home as a good financial decision, and 65 percent of them said they would use a first-time home buyer tax savings account if given the opportunity.
That momentum extended to several other proposals that attempted to address the multidimensional challenges facing housing, including a push to bring back condominiums and townhomes to the housing market.
On the housing affordability front, legislators showed a resolve to address the regulatory costs that are impacting the bottom line for homeowners through a push for greater oversight of state rulemaking processes relating to housing. With this proposal, some of the strongest support emerged from legislators, including the measure’s chief author Rep. Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market). “It is important to remember that those affected most by this affordability crisis are people who are least able to overcome it,” said Vogel.
While the rulemaking oversight bill ultimately didn’t pass, its momentum was perhaps the clearest indication that legislators have prioritized housing affordability as a top shelf issue. This elevation of the housing industry paves the way for future initiatives to continue into 2018 and beyond.