St. Paul, MN - Today, State Representative Steve Elkins (DFL – Bloomington) announced his “Comprehensive Housing Affordability Act”. The bill makes a litany of targeted zoning and development reforms intended to remove barriers that prevent the construction of affordable housing across the state. The basic principle of the bill is that cities would be allowed to assess development impact fees and street improvement districts, in exchange for the removal of certain zoning and regulatory burdens.
“Sunday’s StarTribune exposé on exclusionary housing practices in the Twin Cities has revealed the need for comprehensive reform of the tools cities use to foster and manage the development of entry-level workforce housing that the region and state so desperately need,” said Elkins.
As described in Representative Elkins’ “Flaming Hoops” editorial in the StarTribune last year, the dysfunctional relationship between housing developers and cities poses severe obstacles to the development of affordable new homes. This relationship inhibits the development of thousands of additional units of entry-level workforce housing that must be built across the state every year to meet the needs of newly forming young families.
“On one hand, financially stressed cities need a means to finance the basic infrastructure required to support new housing development. On the other hand, housing developers need relief from regulatory restrictions that are preventing them from building an adequate supply of new homes and apartments that are affordable to young families. This bill addresses both sides of that equation,” said Elkins. “It would allow cities to use cost-based development impact fees to pay for roads and infrastructure – new development should pay its own way, but no more than that. At the same time, the bill would sweep away zoning restrictions used to promote the construction of expensive homes on large lots and would remove institutional barriers to the construction of new entry-level homes, apartments and condominiums. This is a complex problem which requires a comprehensive solution.”
Elkins plans to first introduce the bill during the legislature’s September special session and hopes to be able to present the bill before the Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability sometime before the State Legislature reconvenes in January/next year.
The current draft of the bill, as well as a synopsis of the bill’s major provisions, can be found here.
Prior to his election to the State House of Representatives in 2018, Elkins served as a Planning Commissioner, Housing and Redevelopment Agency Commissioner, and City Councilmember in Bloomington; and then represented Bloomington, Edina, Richfield and Hopkins on the Metropolitan Council, where he served eight years as a member of its Housing and Economic Development Committee. Elkins is currently the Vice Chair of the House Local Government Committee. All told, Elkins has been studying housing, zoning, and economic development issues at the municipal, regional and state level for over 25 years.