As Minnesota’s 2023 state legislative session comes to a close, local leaders across the state came together last week to reflect on the years of local organizing work that paved the way for transformative, state-level changes and to strategize for the next wave of change they’re already building towards.
Minnesota state lawmakers passed legislation investing $2 billion in housing this year – the most the state has ever spent on housing –devoting hundreds of millions of dollars toward affordable housing, helping first-generation homeowners afford down payments and raising the metro sales tax to fund housing assistance. After years of local organizing, the legislature also passed a number of tenant protections, including a 14-day pre-eviction notice and expungement reform among others. In many ways, this is groundbreaking; yet we know we have more work to do to address Minnesota’s housing crisis. Gathering directly after this legislative session provided an opportunity for local leaders to further prioritize housing justice this coming year. That’s why nearly 30 Local Progress Minnesota (LPMN) members and partners from across the state convened in St. Paul last week for our second LPMN State Meeting. This year’s state meeting focused on housing policy, and created a space for members to strategize on policy and narrative, learn from one another, build community, and dream up change.
Before diving into the strategy part of the day, members were grounded in a housing-focused recap of Minnesota’s legislative session from Elizabeth Glidden, LP alumni, former LP Board member, and Deputy Director of Minnesota Housing Partnership. Elizabeth detailed the historic wins including new programs, funding, and policy – breaking down Minnesota’s housing investments through direct appropriation, taxation, and bonding. Elizabeth described this year’s legislative session as “a big, big deal for housing.”
Following the legislative session recap was a panel discussion to flush out our collective Minnesota housing vision with Elizabeth Glidden, St. Paul City Councilmember and LPMN Co-Chair Mitra Jalali, Hopkins School Board Chair Jen Westmoreland, and Jen Arnold with Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia/United Renters for Justice.
Panelists discussed opportunities for cross-collaboration amongst local electeds, school board members, and partners to capitalize on this year’s legislative housing wins with a focus on tenant protections.
Our Minnesota members were also joined by special guest, Austin City Councilmember and Local Progress Texas Organizing Committing Co-Chair Vanessa Fuentes, as keynote speaker. Vanessa shared her deep experience fighting for housing justice in Austin with a particular focus on tenant protections, displacement, and affordability. Vanessa reminded us that our policy work doesn’t exist in silos – protecting tenants includes ensuring workers are making a living wage and improving access to affordable and high-quality childcare.
After hearing from and engaging with so many inspiring leaders in the housing justice space, members participated in a local housing policy workshop with D’Ana Pennington, LP’s Housing Program Manager to reflect on local wins, identify priorities, and set goals. Since much of Minnestota’s housing progress is fueled by local progress, it’s important to reflect on local wins thus far. To name just a few, Duluth created a new housing trust fund; Hopkins dedicated new construction for affordable housing; St. Paul became the first city in the midwest to pass rent stabilization (and Minneapolis is working on bringing a similar policy to the ballot); St. Paul and Minneapolis passed pre-eviction notification policies; Brooklyn Center passed Just Cause eviction protections; and many localities across the state have implemented inclusionary zoning and right to counsel. After reflection and celebration, members strategized – coming out of the session with personalized, realistic policies and budgetary tools to ensure all renters in their community have the following protections:
- The right to fair access in housing;
- The right reasonable fees and rent;
- The right to safe and secure housing; and
- The right to a just eviction process.
In particular, members were energized and inspired to advance the following two priorities: capping unreasonable rent hikes and creating tenant relocation assistance programs.
We know that a strategic communications plan strengthens our policy work, so members ended the day with a housing narrative workshop with Aparna Raj, LP’s Communications Manager. After workshopping messaging to respond to common questions and concerns, members developed messaging and identified specific communication strategies to help advance their two self-identified priorities.
Minnesota is truly leading the way coming out of this year’s legislative session, and that’s in large part due to local leaders across the state working in partnership with their communities, whose advancements at the local level proved these changes were not only possible but also pragmatic, popular, and enormously effective.