Legislature shelves housing bills

Despite support from a diverse coalition, legislation was unable to get across the line.

The “Minnesotans for More Homes Initiative” was unveiled in February with the support of a bipartisan group of legislators and more than two dozen organizations, with the goal of expanding housing choices while encouraging more environmentally efficient, affordable and attainable housing options.

The agenda made housing supply a prominent topic of discussion throughout the legislative session. Numerous bills authored by both Republican and Democratic legislators were heard in both chambers, but two bills garnered the most attention.

SF 3964/HF 4009 was deemed the “Missing Middle” bill allowing for a variety of new housing options and more density in all areas of the state.

The bill drew the ire of many city lobbying organizations including the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities who opposed the language citing, “unreasonable minimum lot sizes to support legislatively mandated density requirements” and claiming that the language “does not guarantee actual affordable housing is built.”

However, there was also support for the language from countless city council members and mayors throughout the state.

“Minnesotans work hard and shouldn’t have to make the choice between moving or having their entire paycheck go towards housing,” said Aaron Wagner, councilmember from Robbinsdale. “Some people don’t even have that choice and are forced to leave their community when it becomes too expensive to live there. We need statewide rules that increase the amount of affordable housing throughout Minnesota.”

Cristen Incitti, president & CEO of Habitat for Humanity Minnesota, supported the language.

“The Missing Middle bill’s aim to diversify the types of housing developers can build in our communities is critical to a healthy housing continuum. We need a diverse housing stock that addresses the needs of communities across the entire continuum,” said Incitti.

Additionally, SF 3980/HF 4010 would have established multifamily residential development requirements within commercially zoned areas of cities. This language was considered in the mix for the longest duration and had the support of numerous mayors, council members and countless organizations across the political spectrum.

“Given the scope of Minnesota’s housing shortage, this is a critical piece of the puzzle that will enable communities to address their housing challenges,” said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis. “The scale of this shortage requires state action like HF 4010.”

Libby Murphy, director of policy for the Minnesota Housing Partnership, testified in a legislative committee saying, “Many of today’s local government policies and everyday practices, currently permitted by state policies, perpetuate segregation. These restrictive growth policies are rooted in racist policies established, enacted and enforced to exclude Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and disabled residents. We believe that it is time to end regulatory deference and state enforcement of these outdated, discriminatory tools.”

Ultimately, the only piece of the agenda that was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Walz was a “legislative fix” to an ongoing lawsuit regarding the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which allows for more density throughout the city. Individual residential projects will still be subject to environmental reviews, but the entirety of the comprehensive plan will not.

“All-in-all, we saw the most important land-use and zoning discussions we’ve had at the Minnesota Legislature in a generation,” said Mark Foster, vice president of legislative and political affairs at Housing First Minnesota.

“Unfortunately, without more meaningful legislation getting signed into law, it’s likely that Minnesota’s supply issues will only worsen over the coming year. The coalition is laser-focused on solving these issues and we hope the Legislature and Gov. Walz will address these desperately needed policy changes in 2025.”