Real estate developer Kelly Doran sounds a credible alarm that federal tax credits for investors, now a central method to financing affordable housing, will be less effective in the current economic crisis (“Affordable housing could be a casualty,” Opinion Exchange, April 13). Doran describes the convoluted steps it takes to create tax deals that ultimately turn into construction funds.

This model was created in 1986 in the belief that complex tax transactions were somehow better than directly funding affordable housing, but maybe it’s time to simplify how the federal government supports this important priority. After all, the cost of reducing a tax by a dollar is the same as the cost of spending that dollar directly. And funding housing projects directly is a lot simpler and more efficient.

With many unable to pay rent and mortgages in the pandemic and probably beyond, affordable housing will remain an important issue. As federal policymakers respond to urgent housing needs, they should replace this impenetrable tax credit mechanism with more direct support. It will get help where it’s needed a lot quicker.

Mark Schoenbaum, Minneapolis

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I hope legislators taking up the state’s business will pay attention to the housing articles by real estate developer Kelly Doran and Star Tribune reporter Chris Serres that appeared in Monday’s paper. These articles underscore the need to include the proposed $100 million for rental subsidies in a second coronavirus response package; this is the best way to assist those Minnesotans who now lack adequate income to cover rent.

Doran’s commentary illustrates the aggravated challenges of building affordable housing, or in some communities any rental housing, in the age of pandemic. Doran points out that due to the complexity of the financing system for affordable housing it will take years to ramp up production even once the economy recovers. Serres profiled a family choosing outdoor living over shelters in large part because of concerns over the virus (“Virus fears push homeless to streets,” front page). Serres puts a face on the thousands of people who desperately need help now.

The rent subsidy proposal before the Legislature employs an existing infrastructure of service agencies ensuring that appropriated funds can quickly assist those in need. Moreover, rent subsidies can aid families with little or no income, something that is a challenge to accomplish by just subsidizing the cost of development. The proposed $100 million provides a meaningful and timely response to the deepened housing crisis brought on by the pandemic.

Chip Halbach, Minneapolis


Don’t prop up a dying market

My head is spinning. Last year President Donald Trump wanted low gas prices and now he wastes a valuable week negotiating with Saudi Arabia and Russia to raise prices (“OPEC plus other nations agree to cut oil production,” front page, April 13).

Continuing to support an industry that is destroying our planet is a fool’s errand. Trump’s time would be much better spent redeploying the impacted workers into more constructive opportunities in clean energy and infrastructure rebuilding.

The oil industry sees a friend in Trump. “The industry is too big to be let to fail,” said Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis for Rystad Energy, a Norwegian consultancy.

Don’t believe it! Nysveen is ignoring the trillions in stranded assets that the industry is sitting on. The consensus among climate scientists and economists is that 80% of coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground to maintain global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, along with a more livable planet. With the majority of fossil fuel reserves unburnable, the industry’s market capitalization is severely overvalued.

According to Barclays energy analysts, the fossil fuel industry risks losing $33 trillion in revenue over the next 25 years. This will create seismic disruptions in markets for energy and transportation, followed by a massive stranding of their untapped resources requiring balance sheet write-offs as losses. Our current coronavirus problem will look like a speed bump compared to this financial disaster.

If you are lucky enough to have a retirement account, now is the time to divest from fossil fuels and get off Trump’s oil merry-go-round. Most investment companies offer low-fee green index fund alternatives — like an S&P 500 fund without the fossil-fuel industry components. They are now outperforming their dirty fuel alternatives.


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And here we go again. Under the cowardly cover of COVID-19, Trump rolls back the mercury and air standards (“EPA weakens regulations on the release of mercury,” April 17). Mercury damages the human brain. Particularly of children. Particularly those children who live near coal plants, the places we tuck our poor to live with the air that causes brain damage and asthma.

We have a president doing favors for his pals in the coal and oil industry — an industry that freely uses the people’s air to dump in. Imagine us dumping our garbage on the street just because it’s cheaper that way. It’s the same. Industry is dumping toxic waste into our common areas — our air, our water, our land. Mercury, blown on the wind from coal and oil plants, now poisons many lakes in the United States. Our Earth didn’t use to be like this — toxic.

Barbara Draper, Minneapolis


Handy that it disperses the blame

It is interesting to wonder why Gov. Tim Walz has chosen to partner with six other states to ultimately decide on ways to reopen Minnesota’s economy (“7 Midwest governors unify on reopening,” front page, April 17). Could the reason in doing so have origins in not having to deflect criticism as an individual, but as a group? All seven of these Midwest governors are facing decisions they have never had to deal with before. From a politician’s perspective, the next election is only months or years away, and why not prepare now for that eventual event by being as unaccountable as possible?

Also interesting is the fact that Walz has neglected to deal with border states on both the south and western sides of the state. Of course, they have taken a more moderate approach to the virus and not made a decision that has resulted in 30% of their state’s business going away, as Walz has done in Minnesota. From a politician’s position, it’s important to never waste a crisis and to use that opportunity to establish additional power and control.

Bob Adams, Plymouth


When is death worth the ‘benefit’?

It was interesting to read that D.J. Tice believes that it’s time to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine when/if Minnesota should begin to open itself up for business (“Is the anti-viral economic medicine we’re taking safe?” April 17). He says that it’s time to determine, with regards to COVID-19, “when the benefits of an intervention cease to outweigh the harms of its unintended but unavoidable costs or side effects.” He later uses drug commercial “recitations of horrendous possible side effects” as an example that the benefit of the drug has been judged to be worth any risk. This line of reasoning seems to tell the reader that yes, there is a “risk” that COVID-19 deaths may occur if Minnesota begins to reopen, but the “benefit” of doing so outweighs that risk.

I would rather follow New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s belief “that if all of his sweeping, expensive measures to stem the coronavirus saved one life, it would be worth it” than Tice’s belief that it’s time for a cost-benefit decision that would surely lead to “unintended, but unavoidable” deaths in Minnesota.

George Larson, Brooklyn Park

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