Eric Hauge knows the effects of Minnesota’s housing affordability crunch all too well. As executive director of HOME Line — a hotline for renters dealing with issues like negligent landlords, unexpected rent hikes or eviction notices — he said more and more people are calling with one main concern: Finding a way to remain in their homes, since there are so few affordable places for to live.
By studying lease agreements and renter protections, HOME Line attorneys and advocates try to identify ways clients can stay in their homes, whether through legal strategies or working out deals with property owners. But sometimes, when landlords are following housing laws and tenants are unsuccessful in their negotiating, HOME Line has no other option than to tell callers they must move. “If you don’t already have some sort of subsidized housing, it can be very difficult,” Hauge said.
The rising pressure on HOME Line and similar housing nonprofits exemplifies the region’s growing housing disparities. Most new apartments in Twin Cities are unaffordable for almost half of the population, according to census data and the Family Housing Fund, a Minneapolis-based housing nonprofit. Since 2013, new one-bedroom apartments in St. Paul, for example, have monthly rents ranging from $1,275 to $1,700 — prices that are only affordable to households that earn roughly $50,000 to $75,000 annually.
That gap in affordable housing has prompted a slew of new policy efforts in the past year, ranging from investments to maintain — or build more — housing for low-income renters to inclusionary zoning rules that offer incentives to developers who keep rents below market rates.
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