Time to refocus on affordable housing

1 Jun 2018


Chances are you’ve seen it where you live or work. Homes are being built again, jobs are plentiful and new apartments are sprouting faster than many Minnesotans can remember. The housing crisis and Great Recession are assuredly over.

But prosperity has helped expose and exacerbate the shortage of affordable housing. To many, including Gov. Mark Dayton, the mismatch between housing costs and too many working families’ ability to afford them is the state economy’s new crisis. The mismatch persists in the Twin Cities region and outside it, where monthly job gains sometimes exceed the metro area’s.

Last December, Dayton formed the Governor’s Task Force on Housing to find solutions to the problem of more than one in four households – nearly 550,000 – spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The 30 percent figure is a widely accepted benchmark of affordability.

As the task force works toward a July report, the ECM Editorial Board will publish a series examining the contours of the problem, its specific impacts on working people and senior citizens and potential remedies – which must include public incentives to bring private and nonprofit builders and housing providers into the picture.

27 percent of households are burdened by housing costs of more than 30 percent, meaning they must skimp on other needs like food, medicine and transportation, according to the March 2017 State of the State’s Housing report by the Minnesota Housing Partnership, an affordable housing advocate.

The number of cost-burdened households rose by 58 percent from 2000 to 2016, reports Minnesota Housing, the state’s housing finance agency.

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