The two bills, currently under review in the Minnesota House, would provide students with construction and other trade skills while building low income housing for communities in need.
Khalique Rogers, founder of the social impact consulting company Good Riddance, testified this past Friday on a bill that would make up to $100,000 from the MN Housing Agency accessible to school districts, charters, and intermediate districts statewide. Currently schools are ineligible to apply.
In Minnesota, Black and Indigenous communities experience poverty and homelessness at a far greater rate than the general population. Rogers experienced homelessness after moving here from Chicago with his family. He says the shelter system, to which millions of dollars are allocated annually, is a temporary solution.
“When we tried to find housing and ended up in the shelter, my dad had to leave because they only allowed single parents. That broke our family up. It’s a feeling you never forget.”
The Twin Cities metropolitan area has the largest Black vs. white homeownership gap in the nation - more than twenty percent above the national average, according to Habitat for Humanity. Rogers says the passing of this bill would benefit both the students and the communities they serve.
Jill S. Stewart-Kellar, Assistant Director of the Career and Technical Education for Intermediate School District 916, says the school’s most popular program is its construction program, “Student Built Home.” Through the school’s partnership with the City of North St. Paul, high school students have been able to build a house from the ground up each year for 18 years. Stewart-Kellar says the passage of this bill would lead to more permanent affordable housing across the state, expanded opportunities for students to gain employable skills in a foundational industry, and an increase in homeownership within low income communities.
“I want to express strong support for HF 2492. In addition to helping individuals and families who are underhoused find housing, changing the language to include independent and intermediate school districts would allow Challenge Housing funding to jumpstart construction occupations programming in school districts statewide.”
Rogers is also advocating for an adjoining bill that would give a government program called YouthBuild $5 million in funding over two years.
Youthbuild provides specialized training for youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are at risk of not completing or have not completed their high school education. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, its programs have helped participants transition from unemployed to earning a stable income, from homeless to housed, and from formerly incarcerated to actively contributing to society -– saving Minnesota taxpayers approximately $3 million dollars in reincarceration costs.