2014 Legislative Successes

2014 Legislative Successes

Great job everyone! Thanks for all of your calls, visits and especially your prayers!

HF859/SF771,The HOME pilot project was signed into law, May 1, 2014 (National Day of Prayer)
The Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOME) pilot project will support closing the disparity gaps in affordable homeownership and housing opportunities for American Indians and all communities of color in Minnesota. Minnesota Housing approved $10.5 Million in their 2014 Action plan for this new initiative and is currently taking applications.

HF859/SF771, also clarifies protections for victims of domestic violence and landlords, was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Dayton. Proponents of the bill argued it accomplishes several things to protect victims of domestic violence in rental housing:

  • Clarifies compensation and procedure rules for landlords and tenants, which allow domestic violence victims to leave a lease because of a domestic violence situation while ensuring landlords receive reasonable compensation for rent. HF859 changes compensation to damage deposit and rent for the month terminating instead of two months' rent.
  • Ensures a person cannot be evicted solely because they are a victim of domestic violence.
  • Expands the type of documentation/testimony able to prove domestic violence for these purposes.

Bonding Bill $100 million for Housing!

Faced with a growing homeless and rental affordability crisis, the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Dayton passed a bonding bill with a historic investment in housing:

  • $80 million for affordable& supportive housing
  • $20 million for public housing rehab
  • $6 million for Dorothy Day

Governor Dayton signed the bill May 20.
Bonds will be issued through Minnesota Housing and likely leveraged with private or local funds to preserve and increase the stock of affordable, supportive, and public housing; bonding has already increased resources available in MHFA's 2014 Consolidated RFP. The bonds will be used to create or rehabilitate an estimated four thousand units of housing across Minnesota.

Criminal Records Expungement Law "Second Chance" for Offenders

A new state law will permit judges in Minnesota to expunge criminal records for some offenders. Judges are currently able to seal court records, but HF2576/SF2214 allows them to also expunge criminal records kept by state agencies like the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension--the kind of records that can still show up in background checks even after going through the expungement process.

People convicted of misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and certain low-level felonies will be able to petition the court for expungement after completing probation and a waiting period. Thousands of people are estimated to be affected by the new law.

The new law is hailed by several coalitions as removing barriers to housing, employment, and higher education that linger long after a criminal conviction.

Minimum Wage Increases

In April, the state Legislature increased Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, which will go in full effect in 2016. Large employers will begin paying an $8 an hour minimum wage in August, $9 an hour in August 2015, and finally $9.50 an hour in 2016. The minimum wage in Minnesota was previously $6.15 an hour for large employers, although some workers may receive the $7.25 federal rate.

The new minimum wage will also be automatically increased for inflation beginning in 2018.

Homeless Youth Services Funding Increases

The supplemental budget bill included an additional $1 million per year for the Homeless Youth Act. This appropriation will be built into base funding, totaling $6.2 million per biennium for homeless youth services. Homeless Youth Act funding provides essential services including street outreach, drop-in centers, emergency shelter, transitional and supportive housing services for the more than 1,000 unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness in our state.

Thank you Representative Laurie Halverson and Senator Scott Dibble for their work and support of youth services.

Two years ago, funding for the Homeless Youth Act was at $238,000 per biennium. In the 2013 legislative session, advocates requested $8 million to adequately fund homeless youth services, and the Legislature approved $4.2 million for the FY14-15 biennium.

The following programs also received appropriations that were added to base funding:

Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth

FY2014-15: $500,000
FY2016-17: $1 million

Group Residential Housing Grants
FY2014-15: $681,000
FY2016-17: $1.4 million

Mental Health Crisis Intervention Services

FY2014-15: $312,000
FY2016-17: $620,000

(Information for this update was provided by several organizations: HOME Bill supporters, HOMES For All Campaign, Second Chance Coalition, HEARTH Connection, and JRLC.)

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