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The Minnesota Legislature has increased funding for high school student home building programs affiliated with YouthBuild USA. After Change Inc.'s program completed the first of four homes on adjacent lots last week, lawmakers backed the successful programs responsible for teaching trades to students while producing affordable homes.

"It's a win-win-win," said state Rep. Matt Norris, DFL-Blaine, the lead sponsor of a bill providing $2 million a year — doubling available funding — to expand such programs across Minnesota. "We're helping young people build skills in the trades. We're helping address the numbers of tradespeople we need. And we're also making affordable housing available."

In addition, the Legislature made school districts, charter schools and intermediate districts eligible to apply for $100,000 grants through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, money that will create even more opportunities for students to learn construction skills as they build homes for low-income families and families experiencing homelessness.

GAP School's success made it an easy sell with lawmakers, Norris said.

Over the past decade, students have renovated four houses and built two new homes, said Jody Nelson, executive director of Change Inc., which runs the West Side alternative school serving students ages 16 to 24. For 20 years, the school's construction career pathway has been affiliated with the national YouthBuild USA.

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