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Twin Cities housing market uptick is hurting the homeless

ST. PAUL — A strengthening metro housing market in Minnesota may be making it more difficult for homeless people to find permanent housing, according to a new report.

Rental rates have increased due to a decline in rental vacancies and statewide eviction filings, the semiannual report by the Minnesota Housing Partnership found. The average rent in the Twin Cities now tops $1,000 a month, the report said.

Expensive rent and a lack of high-paying jobs makes it hard for homeless people to find permanent housing, said Leigh Rosenberg, director of research and communications for the partnership,.

“We’ve got a situation where it’s extremely expensive to rent in the Twin Cities,” she said.

An average of 372 homeless families stayed at Hennepin County shelters each month from July 2013 to September, the report found.

Over the same time period, there were nearly 4,000 homeless children across the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school districts, marking the highest number of homeless children since the partnership began collecting that data about six years ago.

Since improvements in the housing economy usually take time to reach those at the lowest levels of income, Rosenberg said that could be contributing to the rise in homelessness. But the lack of full-time jobs makes the issue worse, she said.

“At the median level, we definitely see a big gap in terms of what people can earn and what they’d be able to afford given those earnings,” Rosenberg said.

The report also found minorities are more likely to be unemployed than whites, with an average unemployment rate of 11.2 percent for African Americans and 3.5 percent for the state’s white workers. In turn, homelessness affects a disproportionate number of minorities in Minnesota, Rosenberg said.

The housing partnership, which advocates for more housing for middle- and low-income people, and more than 100 other groups plan to ask state lawmakers for $39 million to increase affordable housing and access to resources for homeless families.