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Support for Affordable Housing "Builds"

October 12, 2007

St. Paul, MN - A plan to provide 1.5 million new housing units for low-income families is halfway through Congress. The U.S. House has approved the "National Affordable Housing Trust Fund." Chip Halbach, with the Minnesota Housing Partnership, says it would have a big impact in Minnesota.

"It would be the first new federal resource for housing in almost 20 years. 20,000 families in Minnesota should be able to benefit from this program."

The bill will fund efforts to build or refurbish 1.5 million housing units nationwide over the next decade. Six Minnesota representatives were co-sponsors, and it's expected to get to the Senate later this fall. Halbach believes it's appropriate that the legislation targets those at the bottom of the wage scale, because everyone who works for a living should be able to find affordable housing.

"It targets households that are making in the order of $10 per hour. There just aren't many opportunities for affordable housing for those households. These are the people that are really struggling with medical costs and transportation, and all of these costs of living have gone up, along with housing."

Halbach says it's ironic that, while the housing market is in a slump and some homes stay on the market for months, there's still a shortage of affordable housing for so many people. He says Minnesota would benefit from the bill.

"In Minnesota, we have nearly 200,000 families paying over half their incomes for housing. In fact, the number of families in that situation is growing faster, proportionally, in Minnesota, than any other state in the country."

Halbach says financial experts suggest that housing should cost no more than one-third of a family's income, but for many working families in low-paying jobs, that figure is unrealistic in today's market.

Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN