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Minnesota lawmakers discuss disparity of living costs here versus other states

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) — Affordable housing is an issue frustrating Minnesotans across the state, including here in the southeast.

State senators listened to fresh thinking on the issue Monday at an informational meeting in St. Paul.

One Republican state representative from St. Cloud, Tama Theis, notes a big price difference for two similar houses — just 10 miles apart — one on the Minnesota side of the border and another on the Wisconsin side.

That difference? $47,000.

The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency outlaid its vision for success in the state’s housing market.

“Housing unfortunately is just not affordable for far too many people. So in the state we’re lucky that we have a growing economy, but unfortunately the wages that are being paid, it doesn’t help people pay the cost of housing in many communities,” said Ryan Baumtrog, Minnesota Housing Community Development Assistant Commissioner.

It’s raising concern among lawmakers in southeastern Minnesota.

“We obviously know there’s a big need for it and we want to make sure that we have affordable housing around the entire state,” said DFL Senator Dan Sparks of Austin.

With other states seen as cheaper options for living, Sparks says he’s noticed people moving out of state for more affordable options.

“That’s really what it boils down to, if it’s not affordable, they’re going to go to the place that is affordable, so I think it behooves us all to make sure that we can have it around the entire state. Make sure it’s fair and equitable for everyone,” continued Sparks.

The initial plan involves investing more than $1.3 billion across the state for home ownership financing and refinancing, home buyer/owner education, rental production and rental assistance.

“Housing plays a critical in communities and creates a foundation for success. If you want to maintain employment, it’s really helpful if you have a place to go everyday. So housing is just fundamental to a lot of what happens in communities,” added Baumtrog.

If the current plan were to pass, only about 12 percent of that billion dollar figure would come from state resources.

The finance agency believes it’s important the state increases its number of homes.

“We basically need to increase our production of new homes by 10,000 homes each year and so we’re looking at everything we can do to help bring that production and help bring those homes into communities,” concluded Baumtrog.

While nothing has been passed yet, both the Housing Finance Agency and the Minnesota state senators feel they are on the right track for helping to solve the issue of affordable housing in the state.

Holden Krusemark

Holden Krusemark

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