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Prioritizing Homes for Low-Income People in the Minnesota Housing Scoring Application

Dan Gregory October 15, 2020

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative celebrates Minnesota Housing’s 2022-2023 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) updated proposed changes released on October 13, 2020. After its first public comment period on its first released proposed changes, the agency listened to Beacon and the public. Permanent supportive housing is now given its deserved priority in the scoring system because of its essential role in ending homelessness in Minnesota. Minnesota Housing also revised its parameters that determine geographic priority, to broaden the competitiveness of projects across the state.

These changes, reflected in half of the public comments received by Minnesota Housing, are an excellent example of how our public agencies can work with communities to make technical, opaque policies centered on common goals and values.

Thank you for the letters you wrote and the action you took! Click here to sign on to our letter thanking Minnesota Housing for incorporating our changes and encouraging them to formally adopt them on December 17!

Background  

In June, Minnesota Housing, the state’s housing finance agency, proposed changes to the scoring criteria used to award funding to new affordable housing developments. This scoring process is known as the Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), where the agency awards points to a project based on pre-determined state priorities for housing. The higher the priority, the higher the points. The more points a project receives, the more likely it is to get funded.

While agreeing with many of the values that guided the June proposal, Beacon saw severe problems with its implementation. The new changes ended up potentially scoring developments that were majority permanent supportive housing lower than developments serving higher income populations. The June proposal also attempted to focus funding on geographical areas with the greatest need for affordable housing. The problem was the data and parameters used to create this measure reduced the scoring competitiveness of many regions of the state that needed affordable housing.

Standing Up for Our Values & the Response

The Beacon collaborative organized to make our voice heard during the July public comment period. Guided by our vision that all people have a home, Beacon staff testified at a public hearing and submitted concrete technical proposals to fix the problems. Beacon supporters submitted 66 of the total 134 public commits received by Minnesota Housing, lifting up our values and solutions. One of our letters was signed by 37 Beacon clergy.

Beacon celebrates Minnesota Housing’s response through the October updated QAP proposal. The new scoring reflects Beacon and the agencies’ mutual commitment to buildings with the majority of its units dedicated to Permanent Supportive Housing. Housing with services located in the building is a proven solution to homelessness, which is why all five of Beacon’s new projects follow this model. In the October updated QAP proposed changes, Permanent Supportive Housing buildings receive ten more points, which is adequate to make them competitive for funding. 

Minnesota Housing also changed the parameters used to determine geographic preference when scoring a location’s “need for affordable housing.” The agency followed Beacon staff’s technical recommendations, which allow more areas (nearly 50 additional tracts in 31 cities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area alone) to compete for these points. This change, along with the high points awarded to permanent supportive housing, for example, will help Beacon’s development in Shakopee, Prairie Pointe, score competitively.  

Beacon also recommended further changes to the June QAP proposed changes that agency staff did not incorporate into the new updated October proposal. These recommendations asked for a simplified scoring system around prioritizing funding to developments serving people with the lowest incomes and with the lowest tenant rents through rent subsidy. The agency staff agreed that there is quite a bit of complexity and that they are trying to balance the need for permanent supportive housing, senior housing, and workforce housing. Although we believe changes should be made to increase priority for very low income residents, Beacon appreciates the agency staff’s dedication to listening and investigating the problem.   

Next Steps – and Action You Can Take

Minnesota Housing is conducting a 10 day public comment period on it’s updated QAP recommendations, from October 12, 2020 through October 26, 2020 at 5 p.m. There will be another public hearing on October 21, 2020. The Minnesota Housing Board will vote on the final recommendations on December 17, 2020.

Your public comments made a difference! Thank you!

Please take a moment to add your name to our letter thanking Minnesota Housing for responding to our suggestions and encouraging their full adoption at the vote on December 17!

Click here to sign.