As the housing movement has begun to take shape over the last couple of years, several leaders have stepped forward to advance the cause for housing affordability and homeownership. One of the emerging leaders in 2017 has been Senator Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), a first-term senator from District 20, which includes the exurban cities of Northfield, New Prague, Belle Plaine and Elko New Market.
For Draheim, housing issues are not a secondary issue. In fact, they are central to his body of legislative work. “Probably the number one topic in every committee I’m on is affordable housing,” says Draheim. “Our caucus talks extensively about the connection between regulatory requirements and the price of housing.
“While mandates can sometimes create a better product, the return on investment is something in the future we’ll be looking at a little closer,” he said.
This was the case with the sprinkler mandate that was previously required in twin homes. Draheim authored House File 792 that effectively removed this mandate and was signed into law on May 2. “The support of this legislation was fantastic. When you talk about affordable housing, twin homes are at the front of mind,” said Draheim.
In addition to the regulatory costs, Draheim shares the industry perspective on the equally vexing challenge for housing affordability, the lack of work force to design, supply, build and sell homes.
“I see a lot of growth throughout my entire district, with new building happening everywhere. But, the biggest holdup continues to be finding enough skilled workers. If the workforce was there, I think we could see nearly twice the expansion.”
With a background in real estate himself, Sen. Draheim says it comes down to a couple of key factors.
Draheim has multiple platforms to share his perspective on the workforce issue, including as the vice chair of the Senate Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee.
“I believe the two-year colleges throughout the state are making adjustments to encourage the trades more and more. I’d like to continue to have a similar conversation with the K-12 schools.”
As the owner of Weichert REALTORS, Community Group of Mankato, the simple pleasures of a career in housing development aren’t lost on Sen. Draheim. “Watching a building project is fun, it's exciting."