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Affordable housing's return on investment reviewed

published 1/14/2013
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“For a family of three experiencing homelessness, which solution costs taxpayers less money, one month in a shelter or one month in an apartment?” Jill Killbarda, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator, asked members of the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

The question-and-answer game was played during the committee’s inaugural meeting and challenged members to choose the correct answers regarding the state’s return on investment in public housing.

The correct answer: One month in a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent costs $924 compared to $2,697 in a Hennepin County shelter, according to Trista Matascastillo, a Habitat for Humanity government relations associate.

Chairwoman Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) told members they can expect to begin hearing bills next week and those topics will include ways to address the state’s housing foreclosure crisis.

The committee has jurisdiction over just 0.20 percent of the General Fund spending, or roughly $38 million per year, but “that doesn’t mean we can’t look at expectations higher than that,” Clark said.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul) said the focus of the committee’s work is as important as the budget numbers. “We don’t know, at this point, what (the governor’s) primary focus might be in this area. Certainly now is a good time to try to influence that,” he said. “Regardless of whatever party is in charge, it’s obviously our responsibility to bring forward the priorities that our people elected us to and then work that out within the governor’s framework.”

Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Commissioner Mary Tingerthal also provided an overview of the agency that addresses affordable housing through a variety of programs and services.

- Sue Hegarty


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