The Minnesota senate’s affordable-housing problem

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The Minnesota Senate has taken action on the state’s affordable-housing crisis… but not quite in the way we might think. It’s raising its own housing allowance for outstate members from $1200 per month to $1500 during session.

As the Star Tribune reported, the current allowance was inadequate, with over half of Senate members having to supplement their housing allowance with their own out-of-pocket funds. While $1500 sounds like a lot of money to house one person (even my mortgage costs far less than that), it’s not as outrageous when you consider that senators are only in town for a few months a year and need short-term options. An extended-stay motel can easily cost over $300 per week, and with the tight rental market it might be tough to find a more traditional rental with such a short lease period.

Still, I’m sure I’m not the only one disappointed that the Senate is taking action on its own affordable-housing when we haven’t yet succeeded in ending homelessness and housing cost burdens for tens of thousands of Minnesotans. With 14,000 Minnesotans homeless on any given night, with people sleeping outside or in their cars in -20 degree weather, we can’t let this relief to be extended to only a few dozen senators.

Our legislators work hard on our behalf and deserve decent housing. But so do the people who elected them. Sixty percent of Minnesota households earning less than $50,000 a year are paying more than they can afford for their housing. Homelessness has continued to grow, and nearly half of those affected are children and youth. In light of these realities, the Homes for All coalition will be asking Minnesota to invest $100 million in affordable housing bonds this session. As this proposal winds through the legislature, we should watch our senators closely to make sure that they bring ordinary Minnesotans the same relief they have now brought to themselves.