A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (2023)

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (1)

Dylan Novacek May 25, 2023


What is Bring it Home, Minnesota

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (2)Bring it Home, Minnesota sets out to ensure people with low incomes can afford to stay in their homes. It’s a statewide campaign of over 30 organizations working to create and sustainably fund a general rental assistance program that would provide housing vouchers for all low-income cost burdened Minnesota renters.

A rent voucher is a simple, cost-effective solution for housing stability. When a family qualifies, they receive a housing voucher that allows them to find a private market apartment that meets their needs. After they find the apartment, the voucher covers the difference between the 30% of the family’s income and the market-rate cost of rent for the apartment. These vouchers have been proven to work for more than a decade now and a lot of information and data is readily available to organizations and institutions nationally on this topic.

Unfortunately, the need is great, and the solution has been terribly underfunded. Currently, only 1 out of every 4 eligible households actually receive the assistance they qualify for via the federal housing choice voucher program. That means that 75% of the eligible households who already qualify for funding do not receive this life-changing housing assistance when they most need it. Over half a million Minnesotans (550,000) from every corner of the state are at risk of losing their home every month because the rent is too high. People of color are disproportionately affected by not being able to afford rent. Families earning low incomes simply cannot afford to live in our communities.

Creating a universal voucher program to cover everyone who is left behind by underfunding of the federal voucher program will be transformational to our local communities. We would immediately stabilize low-income households who struggle to afford their homes by limiting their housing costs to 30% of their income, freeing up money to provide for their children, their health, and their future. That means that budgets would stretch further so kids have enough to eat at home and seniors can afford life-saving medications. This policy would ensure every Minnesotan gets the rent support they deserve. We need a solution as big as the problem and are confident that Minnesota can Bring it Home.

History: Three Years of Campaigning from 2019-2022

In Minnesota, housing groups started to talk seriously in 2019 about creating a big, dedicated state revenue campaign for housing needs that would include a push for general state rental assistance. Minnesota had already dipped our toes into this work, via previous creation and sustainment of a few small, highly-targeted, population-based state programs (such as “Bridges” and “Homework Starts with Home”), but the need has for too long far outweighed the available funding. Although these smaller programs have resulted in phenomenal, transformational, and very positive family and community change for the families who have received funding, they are only a small portion of all the households needing this support statewide.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (3)Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative’s Board of Directors decided in 2019 that they would intentionally lead more in housing policy advocacy efforts; and so, a rental assistance campaign was created, staff were hired, and the campaign initiative launched in 2020. A lot of groundwork was laid in strategizing, planning, and circulating the idea to potential legislative champions in 2019 and 2020. A lot of individuals said the idea was too big, too far-fetched, and impossible to get passed. But a few legislators saw potential and believed in the hope for everyone having a home.

One of the very first legislators to support the Bring it Home, Minnesota, campaign idea at the state capitol was Michael Howard, Minnesota House of Representatives legislator for district 51B (which includes parts of Richfield and South Minneapolis). Howard had previously worked on some local housing concerns during his time on the Richfield City Council and was already familiar with some of the issues and concerns around housing vouchers.
Pictured: Michael Howard speaking at a Bring it Home, Minnesota rally.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (4)With Howard on-board and ready to champion the issue within the Minnesota House of Representatives, Beacon moved forward with announcing the new housing campaign in early 2020. The Drake Hotel, a county family shelter, had just burned down in Minneapolis and Beacon knew that the call for bold housing policy was needed. The Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign was announced at a press conference with clergy outside of the burned shelter, and Beacon held a Congregational Convening with their members internally to discuss these big needs that we knew needed big solutions.

Pictured: The first Bring it Home, Minnesota press conference. Photo from Fox 9 news.

Bring it Home, Minnesota, began to gather collective support from partnering organizations and shortly had many organizations sign on to join the campaign. Bring it Home, Minnesota began to promote state legislation (Bills: HF40; HF2220 / SF333) to fund rental support for all Minnesotans who qualify. The initiative was drafted as a new program and proposed in the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2020 but did not get a hearing due to the overwhelming global crisis of COVID-19. The initiative was re-visited in 2021 and was finally given a hearing in the State House. After hearing from housing advocacy groups and their leaders, major party leaders began to sign on to support Bring it Home, Minnesota. Energy began to build and over half of the DFL Caucus (41 representatives, in total) in the State House signed on in 2021.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (5)In 2022, the DFL Caucus within the House of Representatives decided they would make Bring it Home, Minnesota, a priority to address for housing concerns, as presented by the then-Housing Committee Chairs, Representatives Alice Hausman and Michael Howard. 2022 saw another year of great support at the legislative level with another hearing taking place in the State House, a “Week of Action” taking place virtually for Beacon congregation members to meet with their legislators, and a session closing rally outside of the capitol to push for the campaign to continue its advocacy after not being given a hearing in the State Senate that year.

Pictured: The 2022 Bring it Home, Minnesota rally.

After the 2022 session and rally, Bring it Home, Minnesota worked with partners and started expanding its statewide reach and support. Legislative champions decided to collectively prioritize and push hard to ensure something would pass for Bring it Home, Minnesota in 2023, which is how House File 11 and Senate File 11 came to be introduced during the 2023 legislature.

This Year: 2023 Legislative Session

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (6)We started this legislative session with high expectations and the demand for housing to finally get its needs met for funding. At our opening rally in early January 2023, we packed the State Capitol Rotunda and received commitments from legislative leaders and the Governor to prioritize housing this year.

Pictured: The January 2023 Start with Home rally.

While Minnesota had a historic $17 billion surplus, there were a lot of compelling and competing demands for resources, and, as usual, housing started to slip as a priority overall. We held impressive hearings for Bring it Home, Minnesota, and again packed the Rotunda in March 2023 for a powerful Bring it Home, Minnesota Rally. Clergy, legislative champions from both the State House and State Senate, and housing advocates all came together to speak up on behalf of the need for state funded rental assistance.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (7)The March rally was perfectly timed with our ongoing advocacy, as the Housing Committee Chairs (now Representative Michael Howard and Senator Lindsay Port) received their target budget (total allocated amount of money they can spend on housing) the next day. Overall, housing usually gets less than .03% of the state budget, around $200-$300 million annually. For the last three years, we have been making this disparity a central issue, and our work started paying off. This year the housing budget was $1 billion. The $1 billion dollars they were given had a catch, as it only contained $50 million of ongoing funds. One-time funds are useful for housing capital to build homes, but you need ongoing money for rental assistance.

Pictured: The March 2023 Bring it Home, Minnesota rally.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (8)The Housing Committee Chairs knew they could not give up after seeing the crowds the day before and they worked hard to secure added resources for Bring it Home, Minnesota. They pivoted to creating a new metro sales tax to generate on-going and sustainable funds, for which many advocated fiercely. Many thought it was impossible, but we prevailed.

Because of our advocacy and the hard work of our legislative champions, Minnesota is creating the first step of the Bring it Home, Minnesota program. Ongoing appropriations and revenue from the new metro sales tax will generate approximately $70 million a year for close to 5,500 new statewide vouchers. This is a historic first step to Minnesota becoming the first state o guarantee all low-income renters can afford their homes.

Recognition of Success with Knowing We Still Have a Long Ways to Go Forward

We are excited to see something officially moved forward in the housing bill this year, but also know that the funds for housing assistance are still not enough to address the crisis many are facing today. We still need to und this transformational solution to match the scope of the problem of housing insecurity.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (9)We are so proud and very excited that this year’s Housing Omnibus Bill finally takes the first step in creating Bring it Home, Minnesota. With the ongoing funding, we will have a stable program that will serve 5,000-6,000 households who desperately need housing assistance. This is a first step, and we are committed to working with all the organizations from the Bring it Home, Minnesota, campaign (and more – click here to add your support!) to keep working to achieve our vision where everyone who qualifies for a voucher gets one.

A history of the Bring it Home, Minnesota campaign - Beacon Interfaith (10)
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