With Work Remaining, Legislators Look to Finish in June Special Session
The 2020 Minnesota legislative session began with the great housing debate. The early weeks included introductions of dozens of bi-partisan housing policy bills and a press conference announcing a series of proposals aimed at “Legalizing the American Dream” of homeownership.
Legislative committees began hearing these and other housing-related bills throughout the following weeks. Numerous bills related to zoning reform, creating efficiency and promoting transparency in housing regulatory costs were poised to advance further. Then, COVID-19 froze the legislature in its tracks. Nearly all unrelated legislation was put on the sidelines.
But, as the legislature turned the final corner, housing once again emerged as a vital subject. From the many policy initiatives, to emergency rental assistance, to bonding for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the discussions were active in both bodies and all four caucuses.
As the clock wound down on Sunday, May 17, the Senate debated a bill that included a number of transformative housing provisions. Among other things included in the bill were many Housing First Minnesota priorities including:
- DLI could not adopt a new building code until 2026 unless approved by law.
- New provisions to the energy code could not be adopted unless they have proven to have a pay-off within 5 years.
- Exclude single-family homes from the mandated window-fall protection.
- Changes to the building permit reporting from municipalities.
- Encouraging municipal plans to allow for more density.
- Cities would not be allowed to condition approval of a project on the use of specific materials, design, amenities, or other aesthetic conditions.
- Building permit issuance time limit established
The bill passed on a bi-partisan basis 35-32. The House of Representatives had previously approved a housing bill with bonding dollars and emergency rental assistance, but no policy provisions.
Housing and many other subject matters remained unresolved as the clock struck midnight and the legislature was constitutionally mandated to adjourn sine die. However, Governor Walz has indicated that he will ask the Legislature to return no later than June 12, as he will need to in order to extend his emergency powers. With that, legislative leaders remain in constant conversation and are hopeful that they can come to a compromise on things such as bonding, taxes, government employee contracts, and housing.
Your Housing First Minnesota advocacy team is continually working to promote the much-needed policy reform that would have a major impact on our housing market. Follow @HFMNAdvocacy on Twitter for the latest updates.