Feb 23, 2022

Rent vouchers will help struggling Minnesotans make ends meet

Paul Williams
Authored By

We know that the housing crisis affects about a quarter of all Minnesotans. It is not just those we see on our streets, but also those who struggle to pay rent, who must decide between the rent or the heat, the rent or the medication, the rent or food. About 550,000 Minnesotans are in a state of housing instability.  That’s a stunning figure. 

PPL owns and manages close to 1,600 units of affordable housing in the Twin Cities region and is home to 3,500 folks every night. We also match several thousand promising workers with living wage jobs every year.

But the fact is we cannot create supply fast enough to address the demand for affordability. The affordable housing crisis is fundamentally about people not having adequate income to be able to pay their rent or afford their modest mortgages.

PPL is honored to be part of a coalition of 30 organizations calling for the State of Minnesota to provide struggling Minnesotans with much-needed rent support.

The Bring it Home, Minnesota Campaign is a big idea.  It seeks to supplement household income with the assistance needed to help folks remain stable in their homes.  While PPL has advocated for increased funding of affordable housing production for years-- a critical need-- we also know that supplemental income supports are an equally effective tool to create housing stability. 

That stability is critical to so many other facets of life. The research we completed with affordable housing peers in the Twin Cities has shown that 24 months at the same address is a sign that a family is going to be successful.

We’ve learned over the last two years of this multi-pandemic how central housing stability is to so many facets of life. Housing is healthcare. Housing is education. Housing is workforce training. Housing is childcare.

We see housing as a workforce development issue for the state of Minnesota—it has everything to do with our economic competitiveness. I have been honored to serve as the co-chairman of the Governor’s council on Minnesota’s Economic Expansion. We have heard about the fundamental importance of housing stability from businesses, schools, human service providers, elected officials and many others.

Yet right now, one in four Minnesotans who qualify for a federal rental assistance voucher do not receive one because the program is underfunded. Bring it Home would help correct this problem, allowing families to pay no more than 30 percent of their income in rent, freeing up funds for other necessities.

When I speak with families who have affordable homes through PPL, I invariably hear, “I’ve been here for the last few months, and already the kids are already doing better in school, and I’m able to get to the trainings and services I need.” When you have a stable home, lots of things start to fall into place.  

We also see this as an equity issue.  We know the pandemic has been especially hard on our BIPOC communities, who make up the majority of frontline service workers.  Many of them have been furloughed, laid off, or displaced due to pandemic-related restrictions. Minnesota can support those who have supported us during this time, just as we are planning to do with our health care workers.

A state investment in rental vouchers will drive incredible returns. When people no longer need to focus on their rent, they are freed up to focus on their health, their nutrition, and their job skills. They begin to heal and grow and succeed. And, as Minnesotans grow, so does their contribution to the community and the economy.