For the better part of the past year, Senator Rich Draheim and Representative Steve Elkins’ comprehensive housing bill has been the talk of the Capitol. This week the bill began the path forward in the Senate after a full committee hearing of testimony Tuesday and a vote to advance it on Thursday.
Introducing the bill to the Housing Committee, Senator Draheim stated, “We are all working toward the same end goal: having a better housing environment for the State of Minnesota.”
The bill addresses building and energy codes, planned unit developments, aesthetic mandates, municipal dedication fees, and building permits.
Leading the many testifiers in support of the bill, Housing First Minnesota Executive Director, David Siegel said, “The question before us today is how will the next generation and the generations after that achieve homeownership?”
“Let’s face it; zoning isn’t working for home buyers or for cities. In some of Minnesota’s fastest growing communities, the majority of new homes are approved via loophole,” Siegel went on to say, “For some cities, between 75% and 97% of homes are via PUD variance.”
Additionally, Peter Coyle with Larkin Hoffman, testified on behalf of Housing First Minnesota commenting, “If there was one thing that I could fix today it would be to adopt the proposal by Senator Draheim that would eliminate the ability of cities to mandate the use of Planned Unit Developments on developers seeking new housing projects. Because it puts an unfair advantage on the local unit of government, which is the regulator. It is not an open market, fair market transaction between the developer and the city. The city gets to say yes or no at the end of the day.”
Finally, Housing First Minnesota board member Tony Wiener with Cardinal Homes spoke from an industry member’s perspective. “On a weekly basis, I hear from customers who are interested in learning more about building a new home, however, their budgets are nowhere close to what we can build for them – even at the basic, entry level home plan,” said Wiener.
“Today, our requirements, our zoning rules, our land costs, lot sizes, our park fees, our engineering requirements – they don’t allow for the simplicity we used to take for granted, that allowed our state to grow and flourish,” Wiener said.
The bill has advanced to the Senate Local Government Committee.