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Housing Leaders announce the Minnesotans for More Homes Initiative, legislation advances through first committee

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

St. Paul, MN - Today, a bipartisan group of legislators and a wide array of housing advocates announced the Minnesotans for More Homes Initiative, legislation that would bolster the state’s “missing middle” housing supply and provide more affordable family homes. “Missing middle” housing is defined by sizes ranging from duplexes to courtyard apartments, and includes alternative dwelling units.

Supported by the Minnesota Legislature’s Housing Chairs, Senator Lindsey Port (DFL - Burnsville) and Rep. Mike Howard (DFL - Richfield), the initiative’s core piece of legislation (HF 4009/SF 3964) passed the Housing Finance and Policy Committee in the Minnesota House today. 

“The lack of housing choices for Minnesotans can be so immensely frustrating, and that dream of owning a home is slipping away. That’s why we’ve put together the Minnesotans for More Homes Initiative to propose solutions that are responsive to what we’re hearing from Minnesotans that are asking for more homes, for more choices, in more places,” said Rep. Howard. “More than one million Minnesotans already live in a city that has taken some kind of action similar to these policy proposals we’re putting forward. We want to unlock that innovation and prosperity for all Minnesotans.”


More than 600,000 Minnesotans are paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs, and the state has one the nation’s worst racial home ownership gaps in the country. Though the legislature passed a historic $1 billion investment to spark more development of affordable homes, the Minnesotans for More Homes Initiative will allow the state to address the root barriers that continue to prevent construction of the kinds of homes that Minnesotans want, but right now can’t find.

“The simple reality is that every community in Minnesota needs more housing,” said Sen. Port. “As Housing Chair, I’ve traveled across the state and seen how dire the housing shortage is in every region, from Duluth to Windom. Common-sense zoning reforms will allow communities to build modern housing that meets each city or town’s unique housing needs. The diverse coalition we’ve built around this issue shows just how essential this legislation is: Cities and towns, builders and tradespeople, advocates and legislators from all sides of the political spectrum support these reforms. Minnesotans are asking us to help them pave the way for the housing they need, and we are listening.”

By legalizing “missing middle” housing statewide, HF 4009 creates more choices for Minnesota. The legislation incentives more housing when units are affordable, near transit, or built “net-zero.” It also reduces barriers that are driving up the cost of building “missing middle” homes, including parking and minimum lot size reform and making it easier to subdivide lots, and eliminates exclusionary zoning practices that are exacerbating racial housing gaps.

“I hear so often from long-term residents of my community that they couldn’t afford their houses today, or that their kids can’t afford to live nearby. We need to build a lot more housing, but if we don’t build it in the right places, we will create more sprawl, make traffic congestion worse, and increase both air pollution and transportation related greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rep. Larry Kraft (DFL - St. Louis Park), the House author of the legislation. “This bill is about addressing root causes of our housing shortage and paves the way for more vibrant and accessible communities.”


The Initiative’s goal is to enact family friendly housing policies and ensure families of all types and incomes can find homes, such as eliminating effective bans on multi-family homes by allowing for multi-family housing by-right in commercially zoned districts. The initiative would also make it easier to develop mixed-income and affordable apartment homes by allowing more building flexibility, and streamline process and approvals to minimize delays and costs.


“Transportation and buildings are top contributors to carbon emissions, which accelerate climate change,” said Sen. Nicole Mitchell (DFL - Woodbury), the Senate author of the legislation. “Missing middle housing offers a sustainable solution by allowing housing density options and reducing reliance on cars. This housing model not only provides diverse housing flexibility but also fosters environmentally friendly communities, mitigates urban sprawl and helps preserve green spaces for a greener future."

After the United States Supreme Court banned the use of explicit race-based zoning, city planners remained capable of segregating by crafting laws to preserve homes in areas that were unaffordable to most Black families. Because exclusionary zoning rules drive up housing prices, poorer families are kept out of wealthier, high-opportunity neighborhoods. This, in turn, leads to worse outcomes for children and greater social inequalities over time. 


“Minnesota has one of the nation’s worst racial equity gaps in homeownership and decades of exclusionary zoning practices have been a key driver of this injustice,” said Rep. Alicia ‘Liish’ Kozlowski (DFL- Duluth), a co-author of the legislation. “Our common-sense and bipartisan plan would curb legacy exclusionary policies that are hindering our ability to close the gaps, bolster our tax bases and strengthen our economy, and ensure all our neighbors have the freedom to find an affordable home to rent or buy in a community they love and the time for action is now.”


The Minnesotans for More Homes Initiative, in addition to its bipartisan authors in the House and Senate, has the support of the Center for Economic Inclusion, Avivo, Housing First, Sustain St. Paul, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, the American Association of Retired Persons, Sierra Club, Neighbors for More Neighbors, ISAIAH, MoveMN, Minnesota Realtors, Minnesota Housing Partnership, Habitat for Humanity Minnesota, Builder Association of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Multi Housing Association. 


More information on today’s hearing in the Minnesota House can be found here. Video of today’s hearing can be found on the House Public Info YouTube channel. Video of this morning's press conference on the topic can be found here


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