Minn. housing commissioner leaving for new jobby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
A member of the Pawlenty administration who has won bi-partisan praise for his work is leaving for a new job. Minnesota Housing Commissioner Tim Marx will become executive director of Common Ground a highly regarded New York City affordable housing developer. The move places Marx on a bigger playing field. However his analysis of the problem here in Minnesota and in New York is the same - wages aren't keeping pace with housing costs.
St. Paul, Minn. — A growing number of Minnesotan's are at risk of losing their housing because they can't afford it.
The reason as, Tim Marx sees it, is because income for many people isn't keeping up with costs.
"Wages for working Minnesotans and working Americans are not keeping pace with housing prices and that's a real problem for working families that are being asked to pay 50 to 60 to 70 percent or more of their income for housing. That's a structural problem in the economy that needs to be addressed," he says.
The federal government could help by supplying more money for various kinds of housing subsidies - from helping first time homebuyers to people in public housing, Marx says. But for the past eight years the federal government has been disinvesting in federal housing programs.
If that doesn't change, we'll see more people in emergency shelters, Marx says.
"We have to address that with more rental assistance as well as get on top of this housing foreclosure crisis by...getting first time homebuyers and other homebuyers into that single family stock in order to stabilize this housing market."
That's a big portion of what the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, now called Minnesota Housing does. It's a state agency created more than three decades ago during the administration of Governor Wendell Anderson.
Minnesota Housing helps finance home purchases for first time buyers. It loans money for building affordable housing.
It actually makes a profit, and the profit is reinvested in making more loans. If it were in the private sector it would rank as Minnesota's sixth largest bank, Marx says.
That sounds like competition for tax paying private sector businesses.
But it isn't according to Steve Cramer,
Cramer is executive director of Project for Pride in Living, a large Minneapolis based affordable housing developer. Cramer is a big fan of Minnesota Housing generally - the agency loans them money - and a fan specifically of the leadership of Tim Marx.
Private lenders aren't interested in developing housing for people with disabilities, the elderly and others too poor to afford their own housing, Cramer says.
The widening financial meltdown of for-profit lenders shows the public sector has to step in and help, according to Cramer.
"I think we have to say of course there's a public role not only in terms of regulation which is not so much what Tim was reponsible for, but certainly in terms of providing affordable capitol to make sure that on an equitable basis, on a fair basis, a range of people in our state have access to a broad set of housing opportunities," Cramer says.
University of Minnesota Law professor Prentiss Cox is another Tim Marx fan.
Cox is a former assistant state attorney general, and an architect of some of Minnesota's strongest protection for consumers and homeowners.
"He took seriously the responsibility of public institutions to create new homeowners and to protect those battling to retain possession of their homes," Cox says. "Commissioner Marx is going to be sorely missed."
In a few weeks Tim Marx moves to New York City to become executive director of Common Ground, a large developer of affordable housing and supportive housing which also supplies social services
"It'll be different because at Minnesota Housing we finance supportive housing as well as many other forms of housing. My new job will be more on the ground. It'll be more providing more direct. This is an organization that builds, develops and operates supportive housing and other programs for low income people including the homeless."
Marx points out while playing football as a youth he learned to use his elbows and knees. Traits that may serve him well in New York's tumultuous political environment.
- All Things Considered, 09/10/2008, 5:55 p.m.