Summer inevitably brings construction season to Minnesota – but when there’s an affordable housing crisis, the work can’t happen fast enough. Habitat for Humanity came up with a clever way to get the attention of lawmakers by hosting the first-ever Red Blue Build. Both sides of the aisle got down the work to literally “hammer out their differences.”

“Out here, when you’re holding up this piece of scaffolding and someone is holding the other end, maybe you don’t agree politically, but if one of you drops it, you have to start over,” says Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL-White Bear Lake). Democrats and Republicans agree that politics doesn’t have to be so partisan; instead, they can come together around shared concerns such as a lack of affordable housing in Minnesota. Republican Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu added,“I hate for people to think the legislature is all partisanship and negativity and fighting because it’s just not. The vast majority of what we do and pass are bipartisan.”

Workforce housing in a growing economy is especially concerning. “We have got to have housing, workforce housing, the employers know it, the workers know it. Habitat here does such a great job with both parties. No matter how far left or right you are, [we] understand this is something needed we can work together on,” said DFL Rep. John Lesch, who represents a part of Saint Paul that’s in need of safe, affordable housing, not just rental properties. In his district, the issue is “critically important,” he said. “Folks in apartments want to know how they get in a place they can own and build economic success.”

That need is statewide and critical across party lines. “This is a huge need in Minnesota right now. The housing market is really tight,” Rep. Neu said. “One of the reasons businesses are reluctant to locate in my neck of the woods and across Minnesota is [that] we have a workforce housing shortage.”

The next legislative session will revolve around bonding measures, when borrowing for state construction projects, including housing, has high expectations and hundreds of millions of dollars in demands. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Housing takes money,” Rep. Lesch said. Meanwhile Rep. Neu points out that, in addition to having one of the country’s greatest disparities in education among communities of color, the state has the same problem with home ownership. “Minnesota has the highest disparity in the entire country. These are problems we have to solve and we absolutely can solve these together.”

Watch Almanac on Fridays at 7 pm and on Sundays at 9:30 am on TPT2 for ongoing coverage of Minnesota’s affordable housing crisis.

________________________________________________________________________

In her first story on the affordable housing in the Twin Cities, Almanac reporter Mary Lahammer takes a look at the work that organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and state legislators are doing to make home ownership a reality for more Minnesotans.

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.