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So far Emily Seddon has created 9 blog entries.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Region Will Lose $85.6 Million Under Proposed Cuts to HUD

On March 16, 2017 the White House released its FY18 budget blueprint. The document included steep cuts in funding for affordable housing programs, including $6.979 billion in cuts to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The table estimates the annual losses to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Region under this proposal, using estimates from Affordable Housing Online.

Any level of cuts to local housing programs would have a significant negative impact on the tens of thousands of Twin Cities residents that depend on and benefit from them.

May 19th, 2017|Data, Housing Policy|

MPHA & FHFund team up to explore regional approach to housing vouchers

Possible partnership among metro housing authorities would mean greater mobility, opportunity, and choice for low-income families

The Family Housing Fund has awarded $300,000 over two years to the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) to explore how the region’s public housing authorities can work together to provide metro-wide mobility for families with housing vouchers (also known as “Section 8”). The “Regional Mobility Initiative” will involve planning and coordination with partner PHAs, policy and operational changes, and a long-term research component to track outcomes for families.

“The structure we have in our region—with separate public housing agencies all administering their own vouchers—creates barriers for families seeking different neighborhoods and greater opportunity,” says MPHA Executive Director/CEO Greg Russ. “The core idea is to discover how agencies in the Twin Cities can collaborate to increase the ‘choice’ in the Housing Choice Voucher program.”

The initiative will become part of a national research collaboration called “Creating Moves to Opportunity” (CMTO). CMTO is a partnership of housing practitioners from 17 housing authorities and academic institutions including Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and the think-tank MDRC. Through this research partnership, Stanford economist Raj Chetty and his collaborators have found that younger children of voucher-holding families who move to low-poverty neighborhoods experience long-term improvements in education and income, along with near-term improvements in health and safety. The Twin Cities Regional Mobility Initiative will also seek to integrate researchers from the University of Minnesota to maximize local insights.

“The Regional Mobility Initiative continues to build on the dedicated work of the Family Housing Fund and collaboration among many partners that seeks to expand access and choice for families in our region,” says Family Housing Fund President Ellen Sahli. “We are pleased to be partnering with MPHA, area HRAs, and landlords on this innovative approach. This is one of a number of initiatives that we have supported with area PHA/HRAs that puts choice and opportunity at the forefront.”

Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity – Phase I Report

The Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity Project is a strategic effort of the Family Housing Fund to increase landlord participation in the Housing Choice Voucher Program across the seven-county metropolitan area, especially in areas with low rates of poverty and high quality schools, in order to expand housing choice for low-income and working families. The Housing Choice Voucher program is one of the federal government’s major initiatives to serve very low-income families and is one of the more flexible resources communities have to meet unique affordable housing needs in their jurisdictions. The Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity project addresses a critical bottleneck in the complex process of a family utilizing a voucher: finding an owner of a unit that fits their needs that will accept it.

The initial phase of the Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity project, which took place from January to February 2016, consisted of a data collection process to understand the experience of larger owner/managers who operate properties in low poverty areas with the Housing Choice Voucher program. It also included conversations with public and private stakeholders to understand what is currently being done to educate owners, expand participation, and what gaps might be filled by the Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity project in Phase II.

Key Takeaways from Phase I

The owners/managers who participated in the interviews and focus groups expressed a deep desire to see the Housing Choice Voucher Program succeed. Many of them conveyed heartfelt accounts of having seen the program serve as a bridge out of poverty for working families. To enable the Housing Choice Voucher program to best serve families, families must have access to a variety of housing choices; in order to provide choice, owners of properties across the region must participate in the program. This research highlights three areas in which the Family Housing Fund and its partners can influence the number of owners that participate in the program:

Partnership: Above all else, Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) must authentically partner with property owners/managers. PHA programming cannot succeed without the participation of property owners/managers throughout the region.

Discretionary Policies: While HUD sets most of the Housing Choice Voucher program requirements, PHAs have some discretion on local administration of the program. The data collected through the Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity project indicates that there are two areas of discretion that are particularly important to cultivating positive relationships with the landlords and creating choice for families.

  • Inspections: While inspections are an important necessary part of providing residents with clean, safe place to live, there are opportunities to work with owners/managers to improve the process. One solution is to provide the inspection criteria ahead of the actual inspection. Giving owners/managers a sense of what they will be judged on would allow them to be even more prepared and would likely decrease the rate of failure and re-inspection, thus saving owners and inspectors time and money.

Several owners/managers also proposed decreasing the frequency of inspections for managers with a proven track record of success. New HUD regulations give PHAs the discretion to inspect every year or every two years. Less frequent inspections could be a powerful incentive for improving property management, while making participation in the program less burdensome.

  • Exception Rents: When each PHA sets its own rent payment standards they must balance the number of families they can reasonable serve with the funds available from HUD because the local program administration is bound both by a maximum caseload and a capped federal reimbursement. If rent payment standards are low to maximize the number of people served, voucher holders may not be able to rent in certain areas where there is a slightly higher fair market rent, even if the owner/manager were willing to accept the voucher. This limits locational choice for families. In order to create more opportunity for choice for families, some PHAs have defined areas with exception rents within their jurisdiction—meaning if a voucher holder would like to rent a unit in that area, the PHA payment standard is slightly higher. In addition to providing choice for families, matching the payment standards to the fair market rent in the area acknowledges the value of owners/managers business.

Resident accountability: Owners/managers want to know that residents will be held accountable. Following best practices of agencies, like not paying out vouchers at a new unit until damages are paid to the previous owner/manager, will reassure those owners/managers that there are incentives for responsible resident behavior.

Acknowledgements

The Family Housing Fund wishes to thank those who generously shared their time and expertise. The Family Housing Fund is especially grateful to the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, including Mary Rippe, President; Lisa Marvin, Board Chair; Todd Liljenquest, Director of Government Relations; and Marty McDonough, Director of Municipal Affairs.

View the full report.

2015 Annual Report

FHF_2015AnnualReport_050516_cover

The Family Housing Fund is pleased to share its 2015 Annual Report to the Community. Thank you to the staff, board of directors, generous funders, and partners that make this work possible.

 

Read the full report here.

May 6th, 2016|FHFund News, Report|

Children’s Mental Health Pilot Evaluation

According to Wilder Research’s 2015 One-Night Survey of Homelessness, children and their parents now make up more than one-third of the state’s population experiencing homelessness and over half are experiencing long-term homelessness. The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that children experiencing homelessness exhibit four times the developmental delays and three times the rate of behavioral and emotional problems as their housed peers. These avoidable consequences set children up for life-long challenges, including homelessness as adults.

The Family Housing Fund’s Visible Child Initiative created the Children’s Mental Health Project pilot to address trauma, teach positive parenting skills, and enhance the social emotional wellbeing of homeless children through services paid for by Minnesota Medical Assistance programs. The pilot meets families where they are, by providing access to early childhood intervention and mental health services in supportive housing sites across the Twin Cities. The pilot sought to produce positive changes for young children, parents, supportive housing site staff, and lay the ground work to embed children’s mental health services within affordable housing across the region and state.

At the start of the pilot half of the children participating were identified as needing additional support for their healthy development based on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social Emotional (ASQ:SE). After a year of children’s mental health services, the follow up screening indicated that only 30 percent of children needed additional support. Even when children still needed additional support, the ASQ:SE indicated that they had made progress achieving social emotional benchmarks for their age. Supportive housing staff reported that the change in parent behavior, as a result of the children’s mental health services, had the largest effect on improving children’s behavior. Through this pilot, staff and clinicians reported that parent’s gained confidence in parenting, improved their understanding of early childhood development, developed increased empathy for their children, increased their recognition of how their behavior affected their children, felt reduced stigma for mental health services, and expanded their family’s engagement in the community.

By evaluating the pilot’s effect on children and families and assessing the strengths and challenges of the pilot, Wilder Research identified several recommendations for next steps that will maintain the positive effect of this pilot. The recommendations include building a strong pool of early childhood mental health clinicians of color and increasing medical reimbursement rates for early childhood mental health services.

The evaluation of the pilot was completed by Wilder Research.

View Executive Summary

View Full Report

March 16th, 2016|Report, Visible Child Initiative|