It’s good news that businesses in Northwestern Minnesota are starting to hire more employees. But with the influx of new workers, we are experiencing a housing shortage. People want to live close to where they work to avoid long commutes and high fuel costs. Unfortunately, there are not enough places for people to live in relation to the growing number of jobs.
Area businesses are trying to find solutions to the housing shortage on their own. For example, Digi-Key pays bonuses to workers who drive more than 60 miles to work. They even bus workers to Thief River Falls from Grand Forks and Crookston. Other growing industries are facing similar situations and are finding it difficult to attract people to fill new jobs if they don’t have a place for them to live.
In response, I have introduced legislation to allow communities to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to help finance the development of workforce housing. This is a great local economic development option that will help get new homes and rental units built, and built quickly. What’s even better under TIF, there are no state dollars required and no money is taken from existing affording housing programs.
In addition, I have introduced a bill to authorize up to $100 million in bonds for housing projects. These bonds would be issued by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to help build affordable housing and solve housing shortages throughout our state—including our deficiency in Northwestern Minnesota. As Chair of the Capitol Investment Committee, we discussed the merits of this bonding provision on March 6. I am hopeful it will become part of the final bonding package.
TIF and bonding are two housing shortage solutions I am initiating to help area businesses and workers. However, I am open to ideas and remain committed to finding solutions to our housing shortage. A lack of housing is not just a quality of life issue, but an economic concern as well.