by Mark | Oct 3, 2017
After a construction boom in the early 2000s, condominium and townhome projects slowed considerably state-wide due to expensive construction defect litigation. Developers, contractors and their insurers found themselves open to potential risk of litigation due to laws in place to protect the warranty rights of owners.
The result was a near standstill in condo and townhome development—not just downtown, but across Minnesota.
That sparked an idea.
Through The 2025 Plan’s development committee, a concept of creating a Housing Options Coalition formed with a mission to help lobby at the state level to reduce the risks impeding construction of multi-family condo and townhome projects while preserving the warranty rights of owners. Through the leadership of co-chairs Scott Andresen of Bassford Remele and Mark Becker of Fabyanske, Westra, Hart and Thompson, the Housing Options Coalition brought real change that will make it more enticing to build condos and townhomes statewide moving forward.
This fall, the Housing Options Coalition is being honored by the mpls downtown council as a recipient of a 2025 Plan Leadership Award. The awards are aimed at recognizing and honoring individuals, organizations and initiatives that help make downtown Minneapolis more vibrant, and the Housing Options Coalition is an example of that mission.
“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,” Andresen and Becker said. “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 from Faegre Baker Daniels and Northstate Advisors to help accomplish the goals of the HOC. Countless meetings, drafting sessions, and hours went into this team effort.”
Andresen and Becker are both lawyers at downtown law firms, and they were eager to take on leadership of this group. Neither shy away from tackling difficult problems. And neither would pass up the opportunity to lead this effort and bring about significant reform to improve opportunities for home ownership in Minneapolis and across Minnesota.
So the two went to work.
It’s important to put into perspective the magnitude of the Housing Options Coalition effort. It brought bipartisan agreement at the state level in a relatively short period of time. Carl Runck, The 2025 Plan Development Committee’s chair, said the State of Colorado needed five years of lobbying to push through two of the six initiatives this Housing Options coalition worked on passing. The Housing Options Coalition accomplished their mission in 18 months.
The HOC legislation was carried by Sen. Kari Dziedzic and Rep. Dennis Smith, who achieved super majorities in each of their respective bodies at the legislature due to their diligence and skill, and the overwhelming support from the real estate and construction industries. This initiative, born out of downtown Minneapolis, will help increase development not only here but across the state.
“New condominium and townhome developments are back on the drawing board, and a couple are already under way,” Andresen and Becker said. “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 we expect more will be built. We are hopeful that this will help to accomplish the goal of doubling the residential population of downtown by 2025.”
It was a process that included countless hours working with legislators and finding ways to build support on both sides of the conversation—builders and owners alike.
Andresen and Becker said they feel a sense of pride in the success of the HOC efforts, but they value the relationships they formed along the way most, particularly with HOC Task Force members Caren Dewar and Cathy Bennett from ULI, Don Kohlenberger from Hightower Initiatives, Mark Belinske from Kraus-Anderson, Matt Rauenhorst from Opus, Gretchen Camp from ESG, Kit Richardson from Shafer Richardson, and Carl Runck from Ryan Companies who, according to Andresen and Becker, deserve much of the credit for the HOC’s success.
The Development Committee also played a key role.
“The support of the Development Committee, the mdc board, and particularly Steve Cramer was tremendous,” they said. “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.”
The hope is those relationships will help build new opportunities downtown. That, after all, is The 2025 Plan’s mission.
“Construction lawyers want to be where construction is,” Andresen and Becker said. “The 2025 Plan provides the vision for a promising future for downtown Minneapolis.”