Report: Minnesota’s progress on housing is mixed

Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho
Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho calls for much more government funding support for housing during a press conference at the State Capitol on Tuesday.
Martin Moylan | MPR News

Minnesota has more new housing but most is too expensive for people with low to moderate incomes, according to a report released by Prosperity’s Front Door, a group that is tracking progress in meeting goals set by a statewide housing task force two years ago.

The encouraging signs include a rise in home and apartment construction and a reduction in renter evictions. But homelessness rose last year and racial disparities in homeownership persist. The trends have been noted previously by other organizations.

Prosperity’s Front Door is a statewide network of business, government, community and nonprofit leaders focused on housing issues.

During a press conference to mark the report’s release, Minnesota Housing commissioner Jennifer Ho made a pitch for a Walz administration plan to ramp up state funding for housing.

"We need more housing, a lot more housing,” she said. “I'm lucky to work for a governor and lieutenant governor who want to go big. We've got a bonding proposal for investments in housing of $260 million."

The housing task force called for the state to add 300,000 homes and apartments by 2030. It appears Minnesota may have added 30,000 last year. But most of the housing is aimed at the high end of the market.

“We are making progress but there is much more work to do,” said Judy Johnson, project director for Prosperity’s Front Door. “Good start. But we are falling behind in some areas that we need to pay attention to. The time is now to get housing challenges in hand and to really make progress. So, a year from now, we've got much more good news.”

The city of Perham in Otter Tail County in western Minnesota was cited as a model for attacking housing challenges. More than a decade ago, companies were having trouble retaining workers because of a shortage of rental properties in the city. In 2007, businessman David Schornack recruited around two dozen Perham business owners to invest in the development of affordable housing. They helped finance 232 housing units over 12 years.

Schornack said more than 400 people live in the housing.

“It makes great business sense,” he said. “It's a community investment. We're not taking any profit out of it. We're building it and hopefully, we're going to get the profit on our business side.”

Schornack said the investment pays off through a boost to the city's population and economy.

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