If the federal shutdown continues into March, Minnesota residents who depend on federal housing programs such as Section 8 could be saddled with housing costs they cannot afford.
Residents and housing advocates warned Gov. Tim Walz during a public discussion Thursday that Minnesota needs to prepare for widespread housing problems, including potential evictions and homelessness, if the government shutdown drags on.
“What happens when families or a senior, for example, is told that they have to pay the full amount of their $990, perhaps, per month for rent?” said Fatima Moore, public policy director at the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless. “Where are they going to go? We don’t have enough affordable housing to house everyone currently. We definitely don’t have enough shelters statewide.”
Walz said he has asked legislators and commissioners to think about what short-term costs the state might take on, particularly in areas like housing and food subsidies.
The state has so far floated more than $150 million for expenses, such as pay for contractors handling road projects, he said, with the expectation that the federal government will reimburse the state.
“I hope and I pray that this will be over soon, because I cannot pay the market rent,” said Pat Lamb, a resident of Kings Crossing, the senior housing building in St. Paul where Walz held the roundtable.
Many people in her building rely on federal government assistance to help pay for their housing and their food, she said.
Lamb and other residents of buildings run by the nonprofit Episcopal Homes will not be evicted if the shutdown continues for months, Episcopal Homes President Marvin Plakut said. The nonprofit will get creative to make sure people have a home, he said, but noted that for some people, living in for-profit buildings eviction is a real concern.
Housing authorities and redevelopment agencies across the state that own public housing buildings and administer Section 8 and other housing programs are also facing financial strain, said Buffy Beranek, deputy executive director of the Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“We can carry this for a very short period of time,” she said, but such organizations do not have cash reserves to spend months shoring up the gap between how much residents contribute and what the federal government funds.
“We will be in crisis mode come March 1,” Beranek said.