Editorial Roundup – Ongoing support needed for affordable housing

Published 1:22 am Sunday, June 2, 2024

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The need for more affordable housing has only gotten more desperate over the last several years.

Home prices surged in recent years, with even first-time homes at a quarter of a million dollars or more. That has put the dream of owning a home out of reach, or at least greatly delayed, for many people.

And those who need to rent are also in bind, with even one-bedroom apartments often near or over $1,000 a month.
The problem, highlighted at a recent panel hosted by the Center for Rural Policy and Development and the Citizens League, noted that Minnesota, particularly rural areas, are “nowhere near” meeting needs.

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Inadequate housing can harm people’s health, job opportunities and families.
But the damage and hardship of the lack of affordable housing doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of those looking for housing. With too little affordable housing, businesses can’t thrive — and in some cases can’t even survive. Businesses also won’t easily relocate to a community where they know there is inadequate housing. And without housing people can afford, communities can’t thrive and be successful.

According to the Minnesota Housing Partnership, every county in Minnesota has a shortage of affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income households — 79% of counties have a shortage that exceeds 100 homes, and 31% have a shortage exceeding 500 homes.

With private investments not meeting needs. Trying to catch up will require more investments by state and federal governments.

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., led 29 of her Senate colleagues in a push for more funding for rural housing programs in the 2025 appropriations bill. In their letter, the senators noted that rural communities saw only a 1.7% increase in the number of housing units between 2010 and 2020, with almost half of states seeing a decrease in the number of rural units.
She noted that federal rural housing programs have shrunk to the point that only about 3,500 direct loans are available for low-income families to purchase or build their own home, the lowest level since 1957.

The letter from the senators requests $1.585 billion for section 502 direct homeownership loans, $200 million for rural rental housing loans, $90 million for multi-family preservation and $68 million for farm labor housing loans and grants.

Investments by the state and federal governments will need to be ongoing as the problem of insufficient housing stock won’t be going away anytime soon.

— Free Press of Mankato, May 28