Carolyn Laine has written an excellent bill that needs your help to clear out of committee. Time is running down at the state senate for SF 614, a housing bill aimed at helping manufactured home communities.

The Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance Committee, currently headed by Republicans, meets for its final time on March 20, 2019.

Follow the link below and call the Republicans on the committee to let them know we want action on affordable housing!

This bill has a unique origin. Since 1991 half of the manufactured home communities in the Twin Cities have closed with the property sold to developers. Gentrification, poverty, and stigma swirl around the motivations for closing these communities. The closure of Lowry Grove (located in our own St. Anthony) shone a spotlight on a special contradiction for these residents: they typically own the manufactured home, but they rent the property beneath it.

When Lowry Grove’s owner decided to sell to a developer, those residents had one slim recourse: to buy that land. Even with the help of a non-profit housing developer to bring a $6 million counter offer, the St Anthony City Council rejected the residents’ offer. Lowry Grove has a complicated story that someone far more qualified explains here.

This saga has led to Senator Laine’s effort to update and strengthen the laws around the sale of manufactured home property. The goal is to change the power dynamic between renters, developers, and local officials by encouraging cooperative buying.

There is plenty of precedent for these cooperative communities, including one in Fridley. Yet, I believe it is impossible to separate the discussion of Lowry Grove and the wider affordable housing crisis, which inflicts serious financial pain on middle and lower-income families, especially renters.

This pain is lived daily by the 40 percent of American renter households that are rent burdened (meaning they spend over 30 percent of income on rent). From 2001 to 2015, average rental prices have increased 32 percent, while average incomes decreased slightly (ruminate on that for a moment). Even worse, 17 percent of renter households spent over half of their income on rent. African American and senior households were even more likely to be rent burdened.

We all know that the rent or the mortgage is the first and most essential bill we pay. Mathew Desmond, writer of Evicted, points out that lack of affordable housing “sits at the root of a host of social problems, from poverty and homelessness to educational disparities and health care.”

Encouraging affordable options like manufactured homes can help avoid tragedies like Lowry Grove. Senator Laine and Mark Koran (Republican from North Branch) say in a recent Star Tribune opinion article that the total cost for manufactured homes, per unit, is about 60 percent lower than high-density apartments and cost about 85 percent less for the city to maintain.

Senator Laine’s current bill not only gives residents time to make a cooperative offer on their place of residence but puts the onus on property owners to inform those residents that they plan to sell the property. This bill has been referred to committee, but it may need your help to get bipartisan support. I see this bill as a truly common-sense filter between the powerless and the powerful, a basic Democratic value. As members of SD 41, we can all agree that home provides the backbone for a healthy family and community. I hope this bill becomes one piece of a much larger effort towards affordable housing in Minnesota.

Author: Nathan West