Housing Affordability Commission Hears About Minnesota’s Housing Goals

March 2, 2020

An affordable housing expert testified that local fees and regulations provide critical services that residents value.

The increase in the cost of land, materials, and construction labor are the biggest challenges the state faces when it comes to housing affordability, a consultant told the Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability during its first meeting on Feb. 24.

The commission was established during the 2019 legislative session to discuss issues pertaining to housing affordability and make recommendations to the Legislature.

Stephanie Brown, a consultant with Prosperity’s Front Door, is providing assistance to achieve the goals set by the 2018 Governor’s Housing Task Force. She presented an overview of the task force’s goals and where Minnesota stands in meeting those goals.

When commission members asked specific questions about local fees and regulations, which have been perceived as a roadblock to affordability, Brown discussed the need to look at housing challenges globally.

She noted that the increase in land cost, material costs, and construction labor costs make up the bulk of the challenges with affordability. Brown also specifically said that local fees are going to provide critical services that residents value.

Scorecard for housing in Minnesota

Much of the commission’s conversation with Brown centered around information contained in the Prosperity’s Front Door scorecard, which depicted progress in the areas of committing to homes as a priority and housing stability. However, it shows that there is room for improvement in the areas of homeownership rates and preservation.

Brown also testified about the production gaps for low- and moderate-income home options. She noted that while Minnesota hit 30,000 new units this past year — enough to start addressing the need — the state is still working on overcoming a period of not building during the recession.

Topics for future meetings

The commission also discussed topics to consider in subsequent meetings, including workforce challenges, density, racial disparities, fees, and regulations, as well as modernization in manufacturing, penalization, and modular construction.

Commission membership

The commission voted to elect Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood) and Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater) as House and Senate chairs of the commission. House members of the commission include Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing), Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL-St. Paul), and Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia). Senate members of the commission include Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), and Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth). The commission intends to meet monthly and will hold its next meeting in March.