A strong economy and tight labor market make the need for affordable housing even more acute. “Hi, welcome to my chaos” is the greeting from construction site supervisor Rhonda Thorson at Habitat for Humanity. “We’ve been working with volunteers since the beginning of Habitat in the 70s – it’s a crazy idea, but somehow it works,” the no-nonsense leader adds. “Cool thing is, everybody wants to be here. Nobody comes to work grumbling.”

“Habitat’s mission is to eliminate poverty housing from our communities. We cover the seven-county area for this chapter and we are providing safe, affordable, really well-built housing, as you can see behind us, for working families in our community,” says Cathy Lawrence from Habitat for Humanity.

The organization is part of the Homes for All coalition that sought $300 million from state lawmakers, but received just a fraction at $60 million. “Housing in my district is needed as much, if not more, than any other part of Minnesota. We’re in a crisis stage for housing, and I think both parties realize this,” says Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), who represents the housing at this construction site. “They did get a small slice, especially in light of past sessions, where it was $100 million for housing. We did have a drop off this year in comparison to previous years.”

The housing group is trying to promote lower-cost design and construction by shortening the funding and approval process, while reducing costs and fees. The issue has bipartisan support and interest. “We’ve created an environment where the cost of building a home is so exorbitant that we don’t have supply available for entry-level housing. We’ve got a crisis on our hands, and the legislature has a huge role to play in reevaluating our regulatory environment and getting costs in line with some of our surrounding areas,” says Rep. Anne Neu (R-North Branch).

Next up, we’ll show you how Democrats and Republicans are working together on this construction site for the first-ever Red Blue Build.

Watch Almanac on Friday, July 26 at 7 pm on TPT2 for the second installment of Mary Lahammer’s story on the affordable housing crisis.


The housing crisis may be reaching a fever pitch in the Twin Cities, but it’s also causing a crunch in every corner of the state. One Greater Minnesota reporter Kaomi Goetz shares this story about housing woes in Winona. 

Jim Crow of the North charts the progression of racist policies and practices in Minneapolis, from the advent of restrictive covenants after the turn of the last century, their elimination in the 1960s to the lasting impact of those practices on our cities today.

In Anoka, Minn., a former asylum for those with mental illness earned a reputation as a haunted site – but plans are underway to transform the property into a sanctuary for homeless veterans. Mary Lahammer takes you inside the buildings, which, despite some dilapidation, have strong bones to shoulder a positive future.