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Committee sold on omnibus housing finance and policy bill

The omnibus housing finance and policy bill, which would dedicate millions of dollars to affordable housing and provide renters with additional protections, has been approved by a House committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul), HF1077, as amended, was approved along party lines Wednesday by the House Housing Finance and Policy Committee and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

DFLers and housing advocates say the bill would make substantial investments in multiple types of housing and give renters more power in their relationships with landlords.

"I think we did a great job of raising up the issues — the complex, significant challenges that Minnesotans all across the state are facing related to accessing housing," said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield).

Among the proposed provisions singled out for praise:

  • $6.5 million for the preservation and rehabilitation of inexpensive multiunit rental housing that does not receive federal subsidies;
  • $3 million in grants for local housing trust funds, out of which local governments award grants for housing development, rental assistance and more;
  • a potential requirement that landlords give notice and wait 14 days before filing evictions for rent nonpayment; and
  • a $1.5 million increase for a program that provides temporary housing assistance to low-income Minnesotans with mental illnesses.

"These policy changes and funding increases will truly make a difference," said the Rev. Sue Koesterman, co-chair of the Homes for All coalition.

Bill opponents say it would strip mobile home park owners of property rights by requiring them to give residents an opportunity to purchase the properties. They also say some of the language around evictions and expungement is unnecessary and that landlords should be able to view eviction records.

"It seems like, a lot of ways, we're taking away some of the tools that help landlords ensure safe and quality housing," said Rep. John Heinrich (R-Anoka).

But Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL-Eagan) said she appreciates the renter-protection language. "Making sure that all the good landlords don't have their reputation sullied by the acts of the few, that's what legislation is for."

Three amendments were added to the bill Wednesday, including one offered by Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Mpls) that would lengthen the period between when landlords file eviction cases and when they are heard in court.

Another, from Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul), would target practices often affecting college students. Specifically, it would require leases ending before the end of a month to be prorated and prevent landlords from requiring renewal of 10-plus-month-long leases until at least four months into a lease term.

The companion, SF969, is sponsored by Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) and awaits action by the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

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