City Role in Increasing Affordable Housing Discussed at Hearing

City representatives testified that a one-size-fits-all solution could bring unintended consequences and a high cost to taxpayers.
(Published Feb 10, 2020)

League staff and city officials testified about the role cities play in affordable housing and the importance of local control during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Home Ownership, Affordability and Availability on Feb. 4.

The purpose of the hearing was to discuss “topics of financial barriers to home ownership and/or the impact of zoning, permitting, and building codes on home ownership.” Senators in attendance included Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake), Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch), and Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis).

View a video of the hearing on the Minnesota Senate website

Cities partner with builders

In addition to providing an overview of the city role in housing and the importance of local control, League staff offered insight into the innovative ways that cities are assisting and partnering with builders and developers to spur the development of affordable housing options.

Staff informed the committee of the importance of local zoning authority and discussed how the permitting process ensures that homes in Minnesota are built right and built to last.

There was also discussion about the consequences of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution to land use and zoning given the unique characteristics of each individual city’s housing market and needs. Such an approach could bring unintended consequences and a high cost to taxpayers.

Why local zoning authority matters

Cambridge City Administrator Lynda Woulfe also testified that local zoning authority is important because it gives cities the ability to respond to unique community goals while preserving the value of residential properties.

Woulfe also noted the process that cities often go through to revisit certain requirements while balancing the city charge of ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of all city residents.

Builders association outlines its priorities

Staff from Housing First Minnesota (formerly the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, or BATC) presented their perception that housing in Minnesota must be “reimagined.” While they admitted that “no single entity is to blame,” it was made clear that their areas of focus during the 2020 legislative session will directly impact cities.

The policy priorities the builders discussed included:

  • Opposition to street improvement fees.
  • Opposition to stretch codes beyond the State Building Code.
  • A “modernization proposal” to reform zoning and specifically address local government zoning policy.
  • Support for changing the permitting and plan review process to only be “job-costed and connected to the actual service provided.”
  • A requirement for itemized statements of costs associated with residential development to be provided to homeowners and a third-party “audit of housing requirements.”

Build It Right: All Minnesota cities for safe, quality homes

The League of Minnesota Cities and affiliate municipal organizations will continue to advocate on behalf of cities for the preservation of local decision-making authority regarding residential development. Through our “Build It Right” campaign, our goal is to protect city authority to make decisions based on locally identified needs.

For more information on our efforts to correct the record and respond to industry attacks that threaten local control, please visit lmc.org/builditright.

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