Legislative Commission Discusses Housing Challenges in Minnesota

October 4, 2021

The League stressed the importance of addressing housing needs at the local level rather than solely focusing on market-rate homebuilding.

The Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability met on Sept. 21 to hear from stakeholders, including the League, about housing issues impacting communities across the state. The commission also heard about a legislator’s proposal to promote affordable housing.

The bipartisan, bicameral commission elected Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) and Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) to be its new co-chairs. It will continue to have meetings until the 2022 legislative session starts in January.

Watch a video of the Sept. 21 meeting

Updates from housing groups

During the hearing, the commission heard updates from three housing stakeholder groups, including the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP), Housing First Minnesota, and the League of Minnesota Cities.

MHP Executive Director Anne Mavity presented an update on the status of addressing the housing goals set by Gov. Mark Dayton’s Housing Task Force. Mavity said the state is on track to build over 300,000 new homes by 2030. However, the state is losing ground in other areas of the housing spectrum, such as preservation of existing homes and linking homes with services to address unsheltered homelessness.

View the MHP presentation slides (pdf)

Housing First Executive Director David Siegel discussed the perspective of his organization’s homebuilder members and focused on new market-rate home supply as a way to address housing challenges. He also reiterated the group’s criticism of local zoning and land use.

Lastly, the League provided the city perspective and stressed the importance of addressing housing needs at the local level rather than solely focusing on market-rate homebuilding.

In testimony, LMC Intergovernmental Relations Representative Daniel Lightfoot highlighted four key tenets that any comprehensive statewide housing legislation should include:

  1. Solutions that address the full housing spectrum.
  2. Support for local innovation.
  3. Incentives for change at the local level rather than preemptive mandates.
  4. Solutions that are community-specific and sensitive to market differences and local needs throughout Minnesota.

View the League presentation slides (pdf)

Elkins’ Comprehensive Housing Affordability Act

In addition to the updates from stakeholders, the commission heard a presentation from Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington) on his Comprehensive Housing Affordability Act.

View Elkins’ presentation slides (pdf)

While the proposal in its current form includes the League-supported street improvement district provision and city authority for street impact fees, the bill’s other articles include broad preemptions of city zoning and land use authority when it comes to residential development.

The Legislative Commission specifically addressed the first two articles, which include street impact fee authorization and street improvement district provisions. The League expressed support for the street improvement district provision, as it includes the same language the League has previously supported.

The League also expressed support for city authority to charge street impact fees but does not support the language in this bill. Instead, the League encouraged the inclusion of HF 527 (Rep. Sandra Masin, DFL-Eagan) / SF 277 (Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake), which contains language the League has been supporting for years.

Prior Lake City Administrator Jason Wedel also testified on behalf of the city and provided the city’s support for HF 527/SF 277 instead of the language in Rep. Elkins’ bill.

The commission is likely to hear testimony on the other provisions of the bill, including those that are concerning to cities across the state during tentatively scheduled hearings in October, December, and January.

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