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Minnesota lawmakers look to create more affordable housing

(The Center Square) – Several lawmakers are trying to make housing more affordable.

State Rep. Steve Elkins, DFL–Bloomington, announced his Comprehensive Housing Affordability Act to reform zoning laws preventing affordable construction statewide.

The bill aims to let cities assess development impact fees and street improvement districts in exchange for removing certain zoning and regulatory burdens.

“Sunday’s StarTribune exposé on exclusionary housing practices in the Twin Cities has revealed the need for comprehensive reform of the tools cities use to foster and manage the development of entry-level workforce housing that the region and state so desperately need,” Elkins said in a statement.

Elkin says the relationship between housing developers and cities inhibits the development of thousands of entry-level workforce housing.

“On one hand, financially stressed cities need a means to finance the basic infrastructure required to support new housing development. On the other hand, housing developers need relief from regulatory restrictions that are preventing them from building an adequate supply of new homes and apartments that are affordable to young families. This bill addresses both sides of that equation,” Elkins said in a statement.

Elkins plans to introduce the bill during the September special session and hopes to present the bill before the Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability before the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, sent a letter requesting the Housing Affordability Commission convene, citing the same article.

“Homeownership is the North Star for many Minnesotans. Unfortunately, too many are unable to attain it because of outdated zoning policies,” Nash said in a statement. “The bicameral, bipartisan Housing Affordability Commission was created in 2019 to address issues such as these. As a member of this commission, I am calling on us to help more Minnesotans achieve the dream of homeownership and address these discrepancies.”

Nash says homeownership should be easier to attain.

“Home ownership should be an attainable dream for all Minnesotans and we need to take a comprehensive look at the multiple inputs that drive costs to skyrocket. Zoning, land use, required elements for decorative aspects of homes by a city, inspection fees, impact fees and many others. I’ve said all along that the solution is like solving a quadratic equation in algebra class: so many integers that need to be worked on separately in order to pull together the entire answer for the problem.”

League of Minnesota Cities Intergovernmental Relations Director Gary Carlson opposed the bill, saying each city has unique building challenges and that the proposal “severely restricts the flexibility and innovation of city governments.”

“Local decisions should be made by local governments and their residents, and not be driven by state mandated one-size-fits all policies,” Carlson said in a statement. “The League of Minnesota Cities appreciates the bill author’s inclusion of provisions to better address the burden that cities and taxpayers face in supporting necessary infrastructure needed for new development and growth. We are committed to proactively working with the bill author to prioritize the ability of locally elected officials to make the decisions that meet the specific housing needs of their communities.”


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