CommonBond Advocacy 101
Supporting Policy for Affordable Housing
The need for affordable housing is growing across our state and country, and advocating for policies that support this work is an important part of the solution. This winter and spring, the CommonBond Advocacy Responders (CAR) committee has been engaging in policy advocacy at the Minnesota State Legislature. Through CAR’s work, CommonBond collaborates with state policymakers to provide resources that support our mission of building stable homes, strong futures, and vibrant communities in Minnesota and beyond.
If you are new to advocacy or want to learn more about how legislation works, but don’t know where to start – we can help! We sat down with CommonBond’s policy intern, Zakary, to ask him a few questions about the basics of advocacy at our organization.
Q: Why does CommonBond engage in advocacy?
A: The housing and services CommonBond delivers are impacted directly by government action at all levels. A positive public policy and funding environment is essential to making our vision of racial and economic equity a reality. Residents and staff can offer unique and personal perspectives to those in places of power.
Q: CommonBond does policy work within coalitions. What does that mean?
A: A coalition is when two or more groups work together to achieve shared policy objectives and goals. Coalitions are rooted in the basic idea that we are stronger in numbers. They are vital for conducting advocacy work and allow CommonBond’s advocacy efforts to be more effective. Even before the legislative session begins, CommonBond meets with our coalition partners to strategize and set goals. We continue to collaborate with these groups throughout the legislative session.
Q: Which coalitions are we involved with?
A: CommonBond is particularly involved with a couple of coalitions. We participate in Homes for All, a statewide coalition of over 200 organizations that advocates for initiatives to support housing stability. This year, the SHARE (Stable Housing Alliance for Recovery & Equity) coalition was created to advance support of nonprofit affordable housing providers across the state of MN through passage of the Stable Housing Organization Relief Program (SHORP) Act. In addition to CommonBond, SHARE coalition members leading this effort include fellow housing providers Aeon, Project for Pride in Living, and Catholic Charities.
Q: How does CommonBond engage with policy at the state level?
A: State-level policymaking is a complex process, involving many layers of planning, discussion, and action. CommonBond has multiple opportunities to support our legislative priorities throughout this process. Here are a few key actions we can take:
- set agendas with coalition partners and steering committees
- meet with lawmakers and state agencies to discuss priorities
- join our coalition members in events like advocacy trainings and rallies*
*For example, in January, representatives of CommonBond went to the state Capitol for the Start with Home Rally. We were joined by many coalition members, Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho, Governor Tim Walz, and others to bring attention to the need for state housing investment.
Q: What happens as the legislative session continues?
A: During a legislative session, senators and representatives have a lot on their plate. We want to make sure our policy goals don’t get lost among other requests and priorities. So, we try to:
- work closely with legislators to provide feedback on bills as they are crafted;
- send staff to give testimony in support of key bills, speaking directly to legislators at public hearings; and
- join coalition partners in signing onto letters, which are then sent to legislators.
Q: What are CommonBond’s key policy priorities for the 2023 legislative session?
A: At any given time, the organization might be working on a dozen different policy issues that are all important to maintaining and expanding our work of affordable housing plus services. Each year, however, CommonBond’s Board of Directors helps set a few top priorities so we know where to direct the bulk of our time and energy. CommonBond’s key policy priorities for 2023 include:
- The SHORP Act – This is a top priority, as it would provide much-needed support to nonprofit providers of affordable housing after many challenges have arisen in recent years.
- 4d Tax Reform – This would adjust Minnesota’s property tax system to support low-income housing and other bills that would improve our ability to provide high-quality affordable housing.
- Sprinkler Funding – This would support the cost of retrofitting sprinkler systems in affordable high-rise buildings, offsetting a critical but expensive building safety procedure.
Q: How can I stay up to date on Minnesota policy that impacts affordable housing?
A: With the legislative session continuing through May 2022, CommonBond will keep working to advance policies that can get more Minnesotans stably housed. For updates on our legislative priorities and other housing-related bills, keep an eye on Minnesota Housing Partnership’s 2023 bill tracker. We are committed to advocating for affordable housing so that more folks can have the foundation of home. Thank you for your support!