Legislature Weighs Housing Affordability

With growing pressure to address the burgeoning housing affordability crisis, the legislature is considering several initiatives, ranging from housing subsidies to the creation of a commission on housing affordability.

Leading the housing policy discussion, HF 1208 (Carlson, A., DFL-Bloomington)/SF 1294 (Draheim, R-Madison Lake) would create a legislative commission to review regulatory costs, housing innovations and homeownership access issues across the housing spectrum.

Modeled after existing legislative commissions covering complex policy issues like pensions and data privacy, the measure would seat eight legislators, two from each caucus, to review and make housing policy recommendations.

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The legislation moved through two Senate committees, meeting the legislature’s established deadlines for policy bills and setting the stage for a final discussion of the measure later in the session.

“Housing is complex, there is no quick fix,” said James Vagle, Housing First Minnesota’s advocacy director. “We’re pleased that the legislature is taking a serious look at how to get our arms around the problem in a productive way.”

With no debate about the existence of a housing affordability crisis, the discussions now center on what fixes can be deployed to address it. The Senate is focusing on broad study of cost drivers impacting home prices, while the House and governor have contributed housing subsidy proposals in their early initiatives.

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Beyond those approaches, multiple bills to increase the oversight of costs associated with housing regulations have also emerged. The need for oversight by stakeholders or the legislature has gained support as the growing regulatory footprint and its costs have created an affordability impediment.

As the legislature reaches its halfway point, it’s not clear what will pass into law. But the interest by all four caucuses and Gov. Walz foreshadows that housing will be in the mix at the end of session.