MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With affordable housing becoming scarce in recent years, Minnesota held its first housing convention Wednesday to try to come up with new solutions for an increasing problem.
The numbers suggest something needs to be done quickly. From 1990 to 1999, the average rent in the Twin Cities went up 34 percent, while the statewide median home sales price increased 61 percent. On top of that, the vacancy rate of rental housing was at 1.6 percent.
With those numbers in mind, more than 500 housing advocates, business leaders and state government officials gathered to set policy priorities for next year's political races. Using electronic polling technology, they voted on ideas to tackle the affordable-housing shortage.
Those solutions will become part of a housing agenda promoted in Minnesota communities and in the 2002 legislative races, organizers said.
"This is the first time in Minnesota that I've seen this kind of gathering," said convention co-chairman George Latimer, a former St. Paul mayor. "For the first time we are getting an alignment between business interests and social justice concerns."
Among the proposed solutions: provide immediate relief to Minnesota's homeless; require housing developers to set aside housing units for low-income people in exchange for zoning breaks; earmark scarce housing programs for the neediest families; and create financial incentives for housing planners.
The least popular idea was the creation of a study commission. The consensus seemed to be that it's time for action, not more talking.
The event was sponsored by HousingMinnesota, a campaign started two years ago to drum up support for housing initiatives.
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