What do you think about building a new football stadium? Many good arguments have been offered by both sides.
Some people say that tax dollars should not be spent on this project, which some consider a luxury. Others say the Vikings are a community asset that impacts business, jobs and tax revenue.
Wherever you stand on the issue; it isn’t the only one this session that should garner public attention, debate and careful decision making.
We should also be concerned about issues like affordable housing, workforce development and investments that support our community and its residents. The Vikings have been able to attract a wide range of high-power advocates including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and many key legislative and business leaders who are pressing the community asset argument.
I am certain that these leaders understand that increased homelessness and poverty are issues that need to be addressed as well.
A recent Star Tribune article on increased homelessness in the suburbs highlights how important it is to find permanent solutions to this problem.
Housing voices drowning
Sadly, the many voices advocating for an investment in affordable housing through the bonding bill have been partially drowned out by the attention given the stadium.
Among other strategies, housing advocates did their best to create legislative theater by having “Bill Ding” (building) all dressed up in his housing boxes trying to engage the Legislature, the media and the general public to not forget these other important funding and policy issues. Rallies, action alerts, meetings and hearings have been attended by hundreds of people.
Unfortunately, as the session is wrapping up, momentum on the bonding bill — specifically for housing — doesn’t seem to be the focus of serious attention. The Senate bonding bill contains $36 million for affordable housing, a bump from the House’s $10 million. Many advocates have been pressing the Legislature to work out a compromise that comes closer to the Senate’s position.
To many of us, funding a stadium, without giving some attention to the needs of those who are struggling to put a roof over their head, every day, seems shortsighted. The affordable housing market is extremely tight as many individuals and families facing foreclosure have been forced into rental housing. This has reduced the vacancy rate for affordable rental housing to a little over 1 percent.
Not more shelters
For sure, the solution to this problem isn’t building more shelters in the cities or the suburbs; the solution is to provide permanent housing that will bring housing stability to families and individuals.
Catholic Charities knows all too well that finding housing is the first step in dealing with any other barrier; housing is simply key.
People who are doubled up, living on the streets or living in shelters have a much harder time paying attention to health needs, education and steady employment.
Minnesota has been known as a home for the Vikings and a place that deals with the needs of those who are struggling.
The state came together to build the Metrodome and in the last 15 years made significant progress in reducing homelessness.
We need to weigh these decisions carefully and always with an eye toward improving the quality of life for our entire state and the region.
Kathy Tomlin is director of Catholic Charities’ Office for Social Justice.