Minnesota does not have enough affordable housing to meet the need. It has one of the worst racial gaps in homeownership in the country. And it has some of the highest housing prices in the Midwest.
State lawmakers repeatedly stressed those three points last week as the Minnesota Legislative Commission on Affordable Housing got a jump-start on considering ways to tackle housing issues in the 2022 session.
State Rep. Steve Elkins, DFL-Bloomington, has proposed one bill aimed at making it easier to build more affordable entry-level homes and multifamily housing. He and other legislators have pointed to a Star Tribune report showing cities' single-family zoning policies have contributed to the lack of affordable housing and racial segregation.
Tensions between city and state officials over the idea quickly emerged at Tuesday's commission hearing.
Daniel Lightfoot with the League of Minnesota Cities said innovation in addressing housing challenges often comes from the local level and the state should focus on incentives rather than mandates. Lightfoot has repeatedly raised concerns with what he called a "one-size-fits-all" housing solution.
"Regulatory reform is necessary," countered Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia. "Let's not demonize this conversation. ... This is an important long-term solution for our state. Let's all be a part of this solution."