Each year, the mpls downtown council recognizes and honors leadership by individuals, organizations and initiatives alike through our 2025 Plan leadership awards. This year, the Housing Options Coalition co-chaired by J. Scott Andresen and Mark Becker was selected as a recipient. The mpls downtown council asked Scott and Mark about the Housing Options Coalition in advance of receiving their leadership award at our mdc gala on Wednesday, October 11.
Describe the outcome of the Housing Options Coalition effort and how it impacts condo building moving forward.
After the construction boom of the early 2000s, condominium and townhome projects were plagued with expensive construction defect litigation. Since then, Minneapolis and other communities have seen great growth in less risky rental apartment construction (particularly after the great recession), but condominium and townhome construction slowed to a trickle because the litigation risks were too great for developers, contractors, and their insurers. The overall objective of the Housing Options Coalition was to reduce the risks impeding construction of multi-family condominium and townhome projects, while preserving the warranty rights of owners. The outcome of the HOC’s efforts was truly remarkable.
With Mark and Scott’s leadership, the HOC identified the primary drivers of condo litigation, drafted legislation, engaged legislative professionals, negotiated with opponents, and worked with legislators to pass legal reforms with bi-partisan support in an environment of divided government. And they did all of that in just two legislative sessions.
The HOC legislation is already having an impact. A recent article in Finance & Commerce noted that the legislation is one of the big drivers in a resurgence of new townhome development in the Twin Cities.
How did you get involved in the Housing Options Coalition effort?
The Housing Options Coalition started as an initiative of the 2025 development committee’s goal to double the population of downtown Minneapolis by 2025. In 2016, the committee identified the dearth of new condos and townhomes, in the face of increasing demand, as a primary impediment to reaching the goal. Based on his experience litigating complex construction cases and testifying at the legislature as a construction law expert, Scott saw that an effort to reform the condominium statutes could help spur development, so he volunteered to organize a task force of industry professionals to take on the project. But Scott knew from his experience that bringing about a change in the law is a huge effort, so he reached out to Mark, who also has years of experience in litigating complex construction cases involving condos and townhomes and significant experience with efforts to reform construction laws, to help shoulder the work load as co-chair of the effort.
Why did you want to take part in and lead this cause?
Mark and Scott both work at law firms in Downtown Minneapolis, so they were eager to see continued development and an increased vibrancy in the area. In addition, they are driven to tackle difficult problems. Neither would ever pass up the opportunity to lead an effort to bring about significant reforms to improve the opportunities for home ownership in Minneapolis and Minnesota as a whole.
What was your role in the effort, and describe how you worked to help make this a reality.
A lot of work went into the efforts of the Housing Options Coalition. The HOC Task Force worked with major stakeholders to identify and prioritize the risks that were preventing development of new condos and townhomes and then drafted legislation to address those risks. Thereafter, they met with legislators to review the legislation and review and incorporate key ideas and direction, met with concerned groups that had comments to mitigate opposition, organized and led large presentations to publicize the effort, and coordinated with a very skilled team of lobbyists to help accomplish the goals of the HOC. Countless meetings, drafting sessions, and hours went into this team effort.
To you, what is the biggest impact this project has on downtown Minneapolis?
New condominium and townhome developments are back on the drawing board, and a couple are already underway! Reducing the risk of litigation has caused developers and contractors who swore off condos because of the rash of litigation after the last boom to consider new projects, so Scott and Mark expect more will be built. They are hopeful that this will help to accomplish the goal of doubling the residential population of downtown by 2025.
What do you enjoy most about Downtown Minneapolis?
Mark and Scott are busy construction and development attorneys and office in the downtown core. Many of their clients do significant work in Minneapolis. It is so easy to have in-person meetings with clients downtown. And with further development of Downtown East, the North Loop, and other downtown neighborhoods, it is becoming a destination on weekends too.
What does the 2025 Plan mean to you?
Construction lawyers want to be where the construction is. The plan provides the vision for a promising future for downtown Minneapolis.
How was the Development Committee supportive or involved in this effort?
The support of the Development Committee, the MDC Board, and particularly Steve Cramer was tremendous. They provided guidance on the legislation, made the connection and contributed financially to the lobbying efforts, helped to spread the message to the entire industry, and many of them took the time to call, email, or even meet with legislators to advocate for the HOC reforms.
What will you personally take away from the work you did on the Housing Options Coalition effort?
While they Scott and Mark feel a sense of pride in the success of the HOC efforts, what they value the most are the relationships that were formed through the process.