Housing costs stretch budgets across the state


More than 600,000 households in Minnesota face very high housing costs when they pay their mortgages or sign their rent checks. In 63 out of 87 counties, at least one in every four households spends at least 30 percent of their income on their home. This reality is mapped out in our project with Catholic Charities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Mapping Minnesota’s Future to Shared Opportunities.

The federal definition of a “cost-burdened” household is one that pays more than 30 percent of their income on their housing. Census data demonstrate that Minnesotans are familiar with this experience, from the Arrowhead to the farmlands of our southwest. In 83 counties, at least one out of every five households struggles with high housing costs.

In every county, renter households are more likely to confront budget-straining housing costs. In 79 counties, at least one in three renting households is cost-burdened.

State policies can ease the pressure of high housing costs on family budgets through policies that increase the supply of affordable housing or help people pay their housing costs.

Policymakers passed a bonding bill with a record $100 million for affordable housing during the 2014 session. Advocates estimate this money, combined with the rest of the state’s 2014 housing investments, can build or rehabilitate affordable homes for 4,000 families. The 2014 bonding bill provides almost three times the $38 million allocated to affordable housing in the 2012 bonding bill.

In 2013, policymakers also sought to increase the supply of affordable housing by adding $4 million to the Housing Challenge Fund and $10 million to the Housing and Job Growth Initiative. Both programs aim to link affordable housing construction and repairs to economic development. Providing affordable housing in growth areas makes it easier for workers to access job opportunities, and for employers to find the employees they need. Policymakers also increased funding for rental assistance for people who often have a particularly hard time finding stable housing, like individuals with mental illnesses.

These recent investments opened the door to a future in which Minnesotans aren’t a missed paycheck or two away from eviction or foreclosure. We’re hoping the welcome mat stays out in 2015.