Minnesota Realtors® Day at the Capitol Puts Housing Center Stage

By MNR News posted 02-22-2023 12:33

Realtors®, industry leaders, and state legislators gathered at the InterContinental Hotel in St. Paul on Monday, February 13th for a morning that brought homeownership and housing into the spotlight. The event brought Realtors and associations together with state lawmakers to work toward removing homeownership roadblocks and burdens for Minnesotans. Minnesota Realtors® Day at the Capitol (MNRDAC) offered an opportunity for members to hear from and engage directly with legislators who are among the vanguards for Minnesota housing legislation.

Legislative Panel Discussion

The morning kicked off with a breakfast buffet and much networking as attendees and several legislators mingled in the hotel’s Great River Ballroom. Breakfast was followed by the MNRDAC centerpiece: the Legislative Panel Discussion. Minnesota Realtors® (MNR), which hosted the event, welcomed incisive political analyst and WCCO contributor Blois Olson as moderator for the second consecutive year. Four passionate Minnesota legislators, each of whom serve in leadership positions on the house and senate housing committees, graciously took the stage for an hour of conversation on topics ranging from housing affordability and supply shortages to property taxes, energy, and new construction costs. 

Legislative panelists included:  

  • Rep. Michael Howard (DFL—51A), chair of the House Housing Finance & Policy Committee;  

  • Rep. Brian Johnson (R–28A), Republican lead on the House Housing Finance and  Policy Committee;  

  • Sen. Liz Boldon (DFL-Rochester), vice chair of the Senate Housing and Homelessness Prevention Committee. Sen. Boldon filled in for Sen. Lindsey Port, who was initially slated to join the event but had a scheduling conflict. 

  • Sen. Eric Lucero (R–30), Republican lead on the Senate Housing and Homelessness Prevention Committee.

After the 2022 elections, Democrats control both the senate and the house. The panelists unanimously agreed that the pace of the 2023 Legislative Session was nothing short of blistering. It feels like an end of session pace,” said Sen. Boldon. Both Republican lawmakers expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of pushing bills through the legislative process at the current rate.  

Rep. Johnson commented that the pace “hasn’t given a lot of time for members on my side of the aisle to ask good questions Some bills may be great for the Twin Cities but [may hurt] the rest of the state.” For the Democratic panelists, Rep. Howard and Sen. Boldon, some of these bills—most notably the First-Generation Homebuyers Down Payment Assistance Fund (HF 4269)—are poised to open the door to homeownership for thousands of Minnesotans immediately.

While the panelists agreed that a lack of housing supply and affordability are key issues for local and state governments to address in the coming year, they were divided along party lines about how to resolve these issues at the legislative level. Rep. Howard said, “I think the state should be an active participant in [housing policy] conversations at the local level. . .because [supply and affordability] is a statewide challenge.” He continued, “We want to pursue policies that are going to help create supply and more opportunity for all Minnesotans.”  

Sen. Boldon saw public investment as a way to directly aid prospective homebuyers, citing a Senate companion bill (SF 365) she’s authoring that would prohibit certain corporations and investors from purchasing single-family homes, primarily in the Twin Cities. “There are folks qualified to own a home who can’t find one because corporations like Zillow [have] limited the opportunity,” she said.

Their GOP counterparts disagreed generally with the notion that public investment addresses the root causes of low supply and affordability, arguing instead that it compounds problems. Sen. Lucero—himself an active Realtor® and broker—remarked, “I’m very concerned about conversations that the government is going to invest in housing, because it’s not going to make housing cheaper.”

From his perspective, government regulations are guilty of driving up new construction costs. “The only way to increase supply is to. . . get government out of the way and allow the market to correct.” He added, “That’s what’s going to drive down prices.” Rep Johnson later pointed to property taxes as an area in need of reform to address affordability and supply. “All your property taxes are done at the local level. But at the state level, what causes [property taxes] to go up is [due to] some of the regulations put on by the government.” 

MNR 2023 Session Priorities  
Following the panel discussion, MNR Governmental Affairs Senior Vice President Paul Eger and Director of Governmental Affairs Matt Spellman told attendees about MNR’s 2023 Session Priorities, including advocacy for Realtors®, homeownership, and property rights at the Capitol. MNR stressed support for the “First-Generation Homebuyers Down Payment Assistance Fund bill, which aims to increase access to sustainable homeownership and reduce the racial homeownership gap in Minnesota, which is fifth largest in the nation, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  

Another key priority for MNR will be supporting the improvement and enhancement of state homeowner property tax relief programs. Ongoing priorities also include supporting actions that increase housing affordability and supply. The Governmental Affairs team will continue opposing any legislation that weakens the private property rights of Minnesotans and increases the cost of the real estate transaction.  

Eger and Spellman closed by promoting MNR’s active “Call to Action” for members, who can use a pre-written message to reach out to their local legislators in support of the MNR 2023 Session Priorities discussed above. Find more information here.  

In Closing   

Incoming MNR CEO Josh McFall followed the legislative update by introducing himself to members. He begins his new role at MNR on March 1. Minnesota Realtors® Political Action Committee (MN-RPAC) presented it’s a comical video, “Team RPAC: What the Realtors® Political Action Committee Does for You,” which explained MN-RPAC's role in advocating for Realtors® and the real estate industry at the Capitol. MNRDAC closed with a continuing-education presentation featuring Minnesota housing market data and an economic forecast from the National Association of Realtors’ Director of Member and Consumer Survey Research Brandi Snowden.