Policy & Advocacy
While Alliance Housing has a lot to be proud of with its current work and housing portfolio, many issues among low wage workers and affordable housing are bigger than us. Building support for bigger systems change takes policy and advocacy work. The 2021-24 strategic plan sets the following goals:
- Goal: Articulate and advocate for a policy agenda that increases resources for housing those with the lowest income and addresses issues that impede access to and retention of stable housing.
- Goal: Articulate and establish Alliance’s brand among key stakeholders in community.
Alliance’s policy agenda revolves around the following three categories.
1. Bricks & Mortar | Building More Affordable Housing
Alliance Housing feels the weight of the market-wide shortage of affordable housing through the number of calls we receive daily and the stories we hear from our recently-housed residents. Additional affordable housing units are necessary to end homelessness. Alliance takes its lead from several policy collaboratives and organizations including: Homes for All Coalition MN, Make Homes Happen MPLS, MN Housing Partnership, MN Coalition for the Homeless and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
There are a few promising policy endeavors underway in 2021. Both the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County have efforts underway to allow or make it easier to add additional single room occupancy units (sleeping rooms, rooming houses etc) to our housing supply. Minneapolis will adopt a new ordinance in July 2021. These generally rent for lower amounts given they are less expensive to produce and offer another option for those with very low incomes. Alliance is/was a member of both study committees.
Homes for All MN is supporting several efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing. Alliance is a member of the coalition and has provided written an spoken testimony for each. The Legislature just approved $100 million in authorization of housing infrastructure bonds – an essential tool to build or rehab housing for those with the lowest incomes. There was also a bill progressing that would require longer term affordability for projects that use any kind of government money. We’ll likely be back again next year. There simply is not sufficient dollars in the system to allow publicly supported projects to relinquish affordability after 15 years. We’re advocating for 30-40 year affordability.
2. Access to Affordability | Lowering the Barriers
While money for housing is fundamental, we also are working to ensure that affordable housing is available for all. At Alliance Housing, we practice Housing First, giving people a chance regardless of their criminal, rental, or financial background. We are working to expand the housing market by increasing opportunities across the market for our current and prospective tenants.
There is evidence of this work in government capital funder applications and public policy. Hennepin County and MN Housing now ask applicants how they will “screen in (verses out)” tenants. The City of Minneapolis City Council adopted two tenant protections measures in September 2019: one to set maximum look-back criteria in criminal screening practices and the second to limit the amount of security deposits landlords can charge. Alliance and others were active in organizing support for the ordinances.
In addition, Alliance has signed on to the Bring it Home agenda that would create a statewide rent assistance program to close the gap between wages and rents. In 2021 the effort is building support for 2022 passage of the legislation through a series of meetings with legislators and hearings in legislative committees. Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative is coordinating the effort.
3. Opportunity for Stability | Supporting Agendas for Prosperity
Along with the priorities directly relating to housing, we know this alone is not enough. We recognize that our tenants lives won’t be stabilized without fair wages and dignified treatment in the workplace, rehabilitative justice systems, and access to programs and supports for mental health treatment.
Alliance Housing’s tenant policy survey will be delayed one year to ensure we can talk to more of our tenants about their interests and challenges more personally.