MINNEAPOLIS-For those that may not know, this week of September 18, 2017 is recognized locally by various groups as Renter Week of Action. Please find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/RenterPowerTC/.
Throughout this week, people and organizations justifiably concerned about the explosion of luxury apartments and homes around St. Paul and Minneapolis, gentrification, rapidly increasing rents in the face of stagnant wages, and the growing and more visible groups of homeless citizens are taking to the streets and halls of government to be heard.
Last weekend, I had an opportunity to discuss the issues of affordable housing and homelessness with a Minnesota state representative. Below is a summary of the lawmaker’s thoughts on the lack of affordable housing:
-This representative experienced homelessness for a period before entering politics, so the issue is one that resonates.
-The representative explained how on the state level, Minnesota lawmakers are more of “middlemen”, because they direct federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to cities and counties for those entities to spend. The representative mentioned the new Dorothy Day homeless facility as an example of a big project created in part by state and city lawmakers using federal dollars.
-The representative added that due to the Trump administration, Minnesota among other states will likely not get federal dollars to address affordable housing at high enough levels.
-In this lawmaker’s experience, it was said that the climate of the state legislature makes enacting policy on affordable housing difficult. Apparently, many lawmakers won’t even use the term “rent control” because of fear of being branded a socialist or opponent of the “free market” by those lawmakers or citizens opposed to such policies.
-Tying together the issues of a living wage and housing was something the representative said was key. This rep said one drives the other, workers earning a decent amount of money and housing stock remaining affordable to the largest majority of people.
-At the end, the representative said Minnesota’s state legislature needs more people that actually are concerned about affordable housing in order to get it on the agenda. Apparently, not enough lawmakers are willing or aware enough to make it a targeted campaign issue.
As Renter Week of Action continues, and beyond, it’s always helpful having the thoughts of every stakeholder. These thoughts will be needed to tackle this social and economic issue that is growing by the day, especially here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.