A new day for housing affordability

Gov. Walz signs Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability, Senate Establishes Select Committee on Homeownership Affordability and Availability

The Minnesota Legislature punctuated the 2019 legislative session by creating two forums focused on housing affordability and homeownership access. Gov. Walz signed the bill creating the Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability, which was joined by the Minnesota Senate’s creation of the Select Committee on Homeownership Affordability and Availability. Both entities will seat their respective members and begin work this summer.

The creation of these bodies comes at a time when the region’s housing ecosystem is experiencing a myriad of structural challenges. The chronic lack of supply of available homes for sale, dearth of affordable options and overall inability for the housing industry to construct affordably priced homes, highlight the many roadblocks impacting the market.

“We are at a critical juncture with housing challenges impacting Minnesotans across the state and the Legislature and governor answered the call” said James Vagle, director of advocacy for Housing First Minnesota.

For decades, housing policy has been largely created by agencies and local governments based on subject matter and delegation by the legislature. Requirements like the building and energy code are managed and updated by the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry, while stormwater management is governed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, along with a host of others.

Additionally, regional entities like the Metropolitan Council and the array of watershed districts maintain oversight, permitting and fee authority. Perhaps the largest single institution impacting housing remains local governments; the cities and townships which maintain zoning, permitting and inspection oversight.

The sheer number of agencies overseeing housing development has presented a challenge for leaders seeking to achieve greater affordability for homeowners who pay for these regulatory requirements and fees in the final price of their home. This issue has been compounded by severe lack of coordination among the agencies. The result has been a growing — but ultimately disorganized — housing regulatory structure.

Proponents of the Commission and Select Committee approach believe that these efforts will substantially increase the awareness and coordination around housing regulations.

“For too long housing affordability has taken a back seat in housing policy discussions,” said Housing First Minnesota Executive Director David Siegel. “The real winners today are homebuyers in Minnesota who are currently facing too many roadblocks in our broken housing market.”

The road to creating the Commission and Select Committee wound all the way to the fi nal moments of the one-day special session May 24.

The Senate took an early interest in housing affordability, devoting significant committee time to the issue and passing SF 1294 (Draheim, R-Madison Lake) to the Senate floor and as a part of the State Government Finance bill.

In the House, the Housing Committee declined to hear HF 1208 (A. Carlson, DFL-Bloomington) and devoted the bulk of the committee work to housing subsidy proposals.

In the end, House conferees agreed to accept the Senate Language as the State Government Finance working group reconciled the final version of HF 10.

The Legislature passed the measure with strong bipartisan support and Gov. Walz signed the bill May 31.

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