There is work to be done for housing in Minn.

Published 3:25 pm Saturday, March 21, 2015

With housing being considered a basic need, the state does a lot to help ensure Minnesotans of all ages and incomes are able to find an affordable place to rent or own. This was the focus of discussions I had recently with some Albert Lea constituents who work with Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

The group and I discussed rental market problems that have arisen in the last decade and a half — for example, that the median rent has gone up 8 percent in Minnesota since 2000, while the median renter’s income has fallen by 14 percent. In our part of the state, 41 percent of renters are spending 30 percent or more of their incomes on rent. The 30 percent threshold is an important one — at that point families are having to make tough choices about how to spend their remaining dollars.

Workers often face serious challenges finding a home that fits within their budget. And in more rural areas, the construction costs of new projects can outweigh the value of the new building, which hinders many potential housing projects. We’ve seen this problem in dozens of communities all across the state, and it’s an issue many in the legislature, including myself are working on this session. I am chief authoring a bill that would create an Office of Workforce Housing that would set up tax credits to help drive investment in workforce housing projects in small cities and towns across the state.

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Even as the state makes investments in housing there is still work that needs to be done. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency is requesting funding over the next biennium to help reduce housing shortages in Greater Minnesota and expand affordable rental options through housing development, rehab and rental assistance. The money would also go to help promote economic development, expand quality housing options and reduce the public cost of homelessness.

As this vitally important issue is discussed in committee hearings, hundreds of other bills are receiving final hearings as the first committee deadline happens at the end of this week. It’s a busy time at the Capitol, but exciting as well as legislators and staff do last-minute work to ensure their bills get enough approval to pass on the Senate and House floors.

If you have questions regarding these or other matters, please contact my office at 651-296-9248.


Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin is the state senator for District 27.