The 2021 state legislative session has ended, and the Center’s inaugural legislative agenda fared well.
Last summer, the Minnesota Homeownership Center released its 2020-2024 Strategic Plan, entitled Go Bold – Go Home. Among the three main plan directives was Driving Advocacy Efforts. We committed to elevating homeownership as a critical element in the housing continuum, and advancing the conversation around the importance of equitable access to homeownership as a key determinant in educational, employment, health and wealth attainment. In December, we finalized a legislative agenda for the 2021 state legislative session, joining forces with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in order to leverage our combined impact around common goals.
Our joint agenda was built around four main priorities:
- Increase funding for the Homeownership Education, Counseling, and Training (HECAT) Program
- HECAT provides foreclosure prevention counseling, homebuyer pre-purchase counseling and homebuyer education and training.
- Increase funding for the Challenge Program
- The Challenge Program invests in producing affordable homeownership opportunities by providing funding for land acquisition, new construction, and home affordability.
- Increase cap amounts for the Rehab Loan Program (RLP)
- The RLP provides resources for health and safety related home repairs.
- Continue housing assistance for homeowners impacted by COVID-19
- These initiatives aim to prevent foreclosure, preserve affordable homeownership opportunities, and ensure long-term sustainability for homeowners in mortgage crisis.
The legislature adjourned earlier this month, and we were thrilled to see big wins on three of our four priorities:
- Funding for the Challenge Program was increased by $2.8 million over the base budget for the next two years.
- The maximum loan amount for the RLP was increased from $27,000 to $37,500.
- Financial assistance for homeowners facing financial difficulty due to COVID-19 was delivered via a COVID Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) this past fall, and is set to be made available again this coming fall via the state’s HomeHelpMN program, currently under development.
And while funding for the HECAT program was not increased this legislative session, we feel we made significant progress in educating lawmakers on the value of homebuyer education and advising, and we are well positioned to come back again next session to resume the conversation.
The Center also worked closely with Homeownership Minnesota, a coalition of likeminded organizations working to advance homeownership issues at the state capitol. In addition to the Center and Twin Cities Habitat, members include NeighborWorks Home Partners, PRG, Neighborhood Development Alliance, City of Lakes Community Land Trust and One Roof Community Housing, among others. Many of these entities work in affordable homeownership unit production. In addition to the homeownership wins listed above, the 2021 legislature addressed funding for affordable homeownership by authorizing $100 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds (HIBs). More than $18 million of this amount is earmarked to specifically fund single-family housing, and this will be a valuable tool to developers and nonprofits as they continue to produce much-needed affordable homeownership units throughout the Twin Cities.
We’re proud of the results we achieved, working in tandem with others, during our first deep dive into legislative advocacy at the state capitol. These successes position us well to make a measurable impact on the homeownership gap in our state, and we look forward to continued involvement in these important negotiations in the years to come.