With government programs critically underfunded, there isn’t enough rental assistance to meet the need. As of today, 550,000 Minnesotans pay more than 30% of their income on housing (Minnesota Housing Partnership, 2022). Add in the increasing cost of necessities, and that number could drastically grow.
Guild joined advocates across Minnesota Tuesday, August 30, for a conversation on the importance of homeownership opportunities for low-income adults and families with two members of US Senator Tina Smith’s staff: Brennan Barber, Education & Labor Policy Advisor, and Ben Ellgen, Outreach Director. The virtual press conference was held by the federal advocacy organization Opportunity Starts at Home (OSAH-MN).
Attendees represented housing advocates across Minnesota, including Guild, SMAC Director’s Council, New American Development Center, Community Stabilization Project, MICAH, Freedom from the Streets, and Minnesota Housing Partnership. More than half of those in attendance have lived experience of homelessness.
Several people shared their stories of homelessness, its impact on their health and wellbeing, and the power of stable housing to transform a person’s life. Kathy Fabel, SMAC Director’s Council Vice Chair, powerfully explained the extreme challenges she faced in overcoming homelessness and its toll on her mental health. OSAH members also discussed the need for increased homeownership opportunities for low-income adults and families and the severe shortage of affordable housing in Minnesota.
Guild Highlights Financial Burden on Service Providers
Guild’s Director of Housing Services, Amber Michel, shared the perspective of financial hardships non-profit organizations face in delivering essential housing and homelessness services. Amber highlighted a hardship accompanying grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), known as “match.” HUD requires permanent supportive housing service providers (like Guild) to come up with 25% of the funds (or in-kind services) needed to deliver services to the community. From HUD, “Simply put, “match” is the non-federal share of costs that the recipient is required to contribute to accomplishing the purposes of the grant.”
Amber explained how this match requirement presents an onerous burden for organizations working to reduce homelessness in the community. Amber stressed, “Bottom line, every year Guild must find a way to fund 25% of the work we are already grossly underpaid to do. We value our partnership with HUD and couldn’t provide these vital housing services with them, but this is an undeniable hardship other providers, and we face.”
The lack of government investment in affordable housing and supportive services to keep people housed hinders the ability of providers like Guild to deliver necessary services.
The group made several requests and policy recommendations to address housing stability and other housing needs in Minnesota. They also expressed gratitude for Senator Smith’s work as a leader in the Senate on matters of housing and homelessness. Recommendations included:
- Continued support for housing at the highest levels in the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bill and for Senator Smith to consider co-signing the Eviction Crisis Act/Stable Families Act (S.2182/H.R.8327). The bill establishes a permanent Emergency Rental Assistance program, funded at $3 billion annually, to help families facing a financial shock avoid eviction.
- Increase funds to allow the use of Housing Choice Vouchers for homeownership.
- Prioritize people with lived experience of homelessness in Congressional hearings.
- Recommend regular ongoing meetings with Opportunity Starts at Home and Senator Smith’s staff to elevate the voices of people with lived experience and service providers.
Guild and the other member organizations of OSAH will continue to meet with Senator Smith’s staff, two passionate advocates for housing and homeless services, and with the Senator whenever possible.
In the meantime, learn more and get involved here:
- OSAH’s Eviction Crisis Act Overview
- Minnesota Housing Partnership’s 2022 Key Facts on Housing
- Out of Reach MN Rental Affordability Report
- Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness 2019 Data
- US Interagency Council on Homelessness – Minnesota Statistics
- US Senator Tina Smith – Hearing on Homelessness