$100 Million in Housing Bonds for Minnesota

Minnesota legislature approves $100 million in housing bonds thanks to advocacy by Homes for All Alliance, Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers 

June 6, 2014

Last month, Minnesota passed an unprecedented bill providing $100 million in housing bonds, the state's largest ever investment in affordable housing. Behind the breakthrough was the combined might of more than 100 organizations that collaborated to form the Homes For All Alliance - a campaign with the goal of broadening the conversation of the housing crisis beyond foreclosure and putting forth a comprehensive housing agenda.

Public policy director of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) Darielle Dannen co-chaired the campaign, single-mindedly pursuing one cause -- safe and affordable homes for all Minnesotans. In the end, lawmakers in both chambers championed housing, along with teachers, people of faith, mental health advocates, local government officials and housing organizations.

100+ member alliance

Dannen likes to call the campaign "a three-year onslaught on lawmakers", collectively waged by the 100-plus members of the alliance.

"We went door to door to identify who knew which lawmaker and how we could establish connections with others," Dannen explains. "We generated thousands of postcards and pretty much had constituents at the Capitol talking to lawmakers a couple of times a week for six months. We ended up connecting constituents to at least 80% of our 201 lawmakers in person."

No longer "fighting for crumbs"

"Four years ago we were in a very confused state," Dannen recalls. "There were all these organizations working on similar issues, but everyone had their own plan and their own way of carrying it forward. There was very little engagement with each other. We were all fighting for crumbs."

The first step was to unite under one banner and support a campaign that everyone bought into. Homes For All provided everyone with a common goal. Next, members framed a single message and agreed to communicate as one. "We all articulated the same thought and sent out the same material. After that it was a matter of persistence," Dannen adds.

Linking stable homes and education

Besides the significance of communicating with one clear message, the other lesson campaigners took away from this experience is that they must have a window into legislators' minds, and forge that vital link between the two sides.

"We spoke affordable housing while our legislators seemed to be more concerned about education,"Dannen says. "There was obviously a gap between how the two sides perceived things. We needed to bridge this space and grab their attention. We had to find ways to link into what was on their priority list and have them buy into ours."

Community leaders brainstormed to identify what that connect could be. They decided to base the campaign's messaging on "homes being the foundation for stable families and educated communities." It said families, individual and communities need affordable and secure homes to thrive.

That clinched it.

The bonding dollars are expected to provide for 5,000 housing units, offering shelter for homeless people and helping many communities with businesses that can't attract needed workers.


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