Panel suggests Minnesota build 300,000 more homes
ST. PAUL — A governor's housing task force says 300,000 homes should be built by 2030 in Minnesota, but provides few specific suggestions about how to reach the goal.
The task force released its report Tuesday, Aug. 21, with 30 broad recommendations of what the state needs to provide adequate affordable housing.
Gov. Mark Dayton said a half million Minnesotans "are struggling to afford quality housing." But he said that in the slightly more than four months he has left in office there is "not much" he can do to promote the recommendations.
The Democratic governor said housing shortages around the state come from good news: Almost every Minnesotan who wants to work has a job.
The bad news, he added, is that median family income is below the 2009 level. The problem is worse in greater Minnesota.
While greater Minnesota wages are lower than in the Twin Cities, the cost of building homes is about the same. That means new homes are not affordable to many greater Minnesota residents.
"The magnitude of the problem has almost overwhelmed my thinking about what we can do statewide," Dayton said.
Indeed, the task force presented general goals — such as making housing a higher priority and preserving existing homes — but delivered no specific legislation proposals.
The task force did, however, provide examples of how things work in other states. For instance, it praised a North Dakota law that provides tax credits to people and businesses that contribute to affordable housing projects.
Chief Executive Officer Jeanne Crain of Bremer Financial Corp., co-chairwoman of the task force, said members held meetings statewide, and hundreds of Minnesota testified about what they see as housing problems.
In much of the state, there appears to be more jobs available than people to fill them. In some areas, such as Thief River Falls and Jackson, there are not enough homes for all the workers expanding industries need.
State Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal said the report "is really a starting point. It is a call for action."
The report calls for work by private and public organizations, but does not estimate how much adding 300,000 homes would cost taxpayers and businesses. Tingerthal said to be successful, governments must work with private businesses and community organizations.
Crain said that private business leaders need to learn about how important it is for them to be involved.
"This is not a plan that simply calls for government spending," Tingerthal said. "It is a very broad based plan."
Dayton said that housing "is a private sector function. They need to tell us what they need."
However, the report from his task force says the home construction industry builds more expensive homes for a better profit.
"The increased cost of building intensifies our shortage of homes, making it harder for developers and builders to construct a new apartment or house at a cost that most Minnesotans can afford," the report says. "Constructing a basic rental home, a two-bedroom apartment, now costs roughly $200,000, which requires rents that are too expensive for the average renter."