U.S. Sen. Tina Smith: Virtually Every Minnesota Community Has a Housing Shortage That Hurts State’s Families, Businesses, and Economic Growth

U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said today that virtually every Minnesota community has a shortage of quality, affordable housing, which not only hurts the health and well-being of families, communities and businesses across the state, but also restrains job creation and economic growth. She released a report of the findings of her recently-completed “Statewide Housing Listening Tour” at an event in Duluth on Monday.

Senator Smith, a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the nation’s housing policy, said she and her staff met with hundreds of Minnesotans during 21 meetings and listening sessions in communities across the state.  They found many barriers to making housing affordable for Minnesotans and to addressing the state’s housing insecurity. The report also highlights some of the successful actions Minnesota communities are taking to address the shortage, and it outlines some of the housing measures that Senator Smith has had signed into law.  Beyond that, it details other steps she sees as important to giving Minnesotans more quality affordable housing options.

“As I’ve travelled across our big, diverse state, I’ve seen that virtually every community in Minnesota is experiencing a serious housing shortage.  In some communities, it’s a crisis,” said Sen. Smith“If you don’t have a safe, stable, affordable place to live, nothing else in your life works.  During our listening tour, we heard from hundreds of Minnesotans who told us that without housing, our families’ health and well-being suffers, students can’t succeed in school, and businesses can’t expand.  It’s clear, housing is the foundation for healthy families and economic opportunity in our state.”

Key Findings From Report

The report outlines the concerns Minnesotans expressed about the housing shortage, including rising homelessness and the lack of shelters across the state, the unaffordability of rental housing and homeownership, as well as the impact of discrimination on communities of color.  Several listening sessions focused on the unique housing challenges in Minnesota’s Native communities. 

  • Homelessness: Homelessness in Minnesota is growing and there is a serious shortage of shelters and transitional housing contributing to the problem.  Homelessness is especially difficult to overcome for members of the LBGTQ+ community and for victims of domestic violence.
  • Shortage of affordable rental housing: Renters struggle to find units they can afford, and federal housing investments have been stagnant or declined as the need has increased.
  • Housing Shortage Restrains Economic Growth: Businesses can’t create and fill jobs because prospective employees are unable to find nearby housing for their families. Home ownership – a key factor in accumulating wealth for families – is increasingly beyond the economic reach for many Minnesotans.
  • Link Between Health and Housing: Minnesotans found a correlation between the quality of person’s housing and their health.  Those with housing insecurity see their physical, mental and emotional well-being suffer.
  • Disparities in Housing: Longstanding discrimination continues to be felt, with black households seeing a significantly lower percentage of home ownership when compared to white households.   New Americans, immigrants and people with disabilities face barriers to housing.
  • Native Communities Face Unique BarriersNative-specific listening sessions found a high level of homelessness, and the need for more supportive housing and culturally specific programming.  The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 has not had a funding increase since the year it was created.

Between June and January, listening sessions were held in Alexandria, Bemidji, Brooklyn Center, Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Duluth, Faribault, Mankato, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Moorhead, Rochester, St. Cloud, St. Paul, Thief River Falls, Treasure Island, Virginia, Willmar, Winona, and Worthington.