The time has come for Minnesota to make robust investments in affordable housing across the state.

A coalition of business groups, labor and fair housing groups has drawn the interest of rural and urban legislators alike in what could be the biggest investment in affordable housing in Minnesota History.

Those investments can’t come too soon, as the Mankato and North Mankato area continues to suffer from a shortage of affordable housing.

Some 200 nonprofits, cities and other groups have proposed the state spend $430 million on affordable housing, homeless outreach and incentives to invest in affordable housing. The Homes for All group calls for $300 million in bonding to help build housing, $80 million for state agencies that deal with housing and homelessness and $50 million in tax credits to provide incentive for investors.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the new housing finance committee in the Minnesota House, called the plans for the bonding money over two years “doable.” She also noted that should the whole plan be approved, it would be the biggest investment ever made in Minnesota housing.

The Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce also supports the plan for $50 million in tax credits. Area organizations including New Ulm EDA and Partners for Affordable Housing are part of the coalition Housing for All.

Homelessness is a huge problem in Mankato and other outstate cities as well as big urban areas. The homeless in Minneapolis built a “tent village” along a highway barrier wall. The city and other groups eventually built semi-permanent shelters where the homeless could bring their tents.

The Mankato rotating homeless shelter involving area churches donating their space is full or overflowing.

While Mankato has added about 110 units of affordable housing in the last couple of years, more is needed. Studies show the city should build 50 to 60 units per year.

The Governor’s Task Force on Housing also reported last July that Minnesota will need 300,000 new homes by 2030 and needs to preserve about 2,000 affordable housing units per year. That bipartisan task force included Sens. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, and Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake.

The momentum to significantly increase Minnesota’s affordable housing stock is growing and provides a rare opportunity to impact this perennial problem. We urge the Legislature to approve a robust plan with bipartisan support.

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