Advocates want state to invest $100M in affordable housing

Advocates for the homeless want state legislators to use the state's annual purchase of general obligation bonds to ease a housing crisis that is shutting out low-income Minnesotans.

They're calling for a $100 million investment that would increase the number of affordable, supportive housing units across the state. That would build or renovate about 5,000 units.

Liz Kuoppala, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, said the investment is needed because efforts to put families in homes often are stymied by a lack of supply.

"We just don't have enough housing units to put people in," Kuoppala said. "We want to move people out of shelter, into permanent supportive housing. This will create more opportunities to do that. It's not enough to end homelessness all in one fell swoop, but it is a significant step forward."

Advocates say stable housing will help reduce chronic homelessness, which can ease the pressure on jails, emergency rooms, and detox centers. They say families with stable housing are more likely to live healthier lives, and their children will do better in school.

Lawmakers who chair the capital investment committees in both the House and Senate support the $100 million investment. But Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $50 million in spending on affordable housing.

State Rep. Alice Hausman, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, said steering the larger sum toward affordable housing in a bonding bill has never been done before in Minnesota. She said the idea of investing in housing for low-income people is receiving broad bipartisan support.

"We've been doing $5 million, $10 million, zero, so the idea of asking for $100 million is unprecedented," said Hausman, DFL-St. Paul.

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