Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability Discusses Housing Preemption Proposal

December 20, 2021

The commission discussed the majority of the proposed “Comprehensive Housing Affordability Act,” which would broadly preempt city authority regarding residential development.

The Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability on Dec. 14 reviewed draft legislation authored by Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington) that seeks to address housing issues in Minnesota by broadly preempting city authority when it comes to residential development.

The current draft of the bill, dubbed the “Comprehensive Housing Affordability Act,” includes numerous concerning provisions that would directly impact city roles in land use planning, zoning, and residential development.

Read a summary of the bill (pdf)

City concerns

Rep. Elkins provided a summary of articles 3-11 of the draft legislation, which include policy provisions that would impact cities statewide, as well as those that would directly impact cities in the metro area.

The League of Minnesota Cities, along with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Metro Cities, Minnesota Association of Small Cities, and the Municipal Legislative Commission submitted written testimony highlighting city concerns with the bill. Chief among the city concerns are the provisions in the bill that:

  • Broadly preempt city zoning and land use authority.
  • Cap park dedication fees.
  • Place restrictions on state building code adoption.
  • Eliminate city opt-out authority for Temporary Family Health Care Dwellings.
  • Require that building permit fees be based on a cost-per-square-foot methodology.

While articles 3-11 were discussed, commission members focused on the topic of building permit fees. They acknowledged the housing challenges impacting communities and stressed that while development has up and down cycles, fees need to be balanced. They said the state could look into a long-term approach that could involve a more standardized fee structure.

Homeownership initiatives

The commission also heard a presentation on homeownership initiatives from Jeff Corey with One Roof Community Housing and Cristen Incitti with Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota. The presentation focused on policy and state resources to increase affordable homeownership production and provide new financing tools to support and low median-income households and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

When asked about policy reforms in the Elkins bill, both Corey and Incitti noted that better administration of state grant resources would help more than the policy provisions in the Elkins bill. When asked about state and local regulations as a barrier, Incitti said that the largest cost burdens are land, materials, and labor rather than local regulations. She also added that developing in more rural areas can be extremely costly if a property is undeveloped and lacks infrastructure.

Next meeting

The commission is set to convene its final interim meeting on Jan. 18 with the agenda to be determined. Interested cities can view the meeting by streaming it live on the Legislative Coordinating Commission YouTube page.

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