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Expanding Opportunities for Housing Choice Voucher households

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, originally launched as the Section 8 program in 1974, assists households earning less than half of the area median income to secure affordable housing in the private market. While just one in four eligible U.S. households receive rental assistance, those fortunate enough to secure a Housing Choice Voucher pay 30% of their income toward rent and the voucher covers the balance. The HCV program served 2.2 million U.S. households in 2017, and is administered in Twin Cities jurisdictions by 10 different public housing authorities and similar agencies (PHAs).

Participation in the HCV program is voluntary for rental property owners and managers in most U.S. jurisdictions and varies widely across the Twin Cities. While many HCV households find rent-eligible units in their desired community, “No Section 8” remains a common feature of rental listings. As a result, HCV participation remains concentrated in a few neighborhoods in the Twin Cities region.   It’s important to understand the property owner’s perspective about the HCV program.

  • Especially for smaller owners and first-time participants, the contracting and inspection processes require additional time and effort.
  • Low vacancy rates tend to reduce owner and manager participation, as applicants without a rental subsidy are often able to lease up faster than those using an HCV.
  • Perceptions and misperceptions are another factor identified in recent HUD-sponsored evaluations of private owner / manager participation.

Despite these challenges, a number of strategies are effective in increasing HCV acceptance by private Twin Cities rental owners and managers. Through our Owners and Managers Creating Opportunity initiative, Family Housing Fund invested in an evaluation of Minneapolis Public Housing Authority’s HCV program performed by a national consultant, and MPHA has since implemented most of the recommendations. These improvements were intended to improve property owner experience with the HCV program and included:

  • Extending housing search times
  • Same-day approval for passed inspections
  • Prorating rent to begin the same day the owner-PHA contract is approved
  • Issuing vouchers on the same day the household attends the PHA’s informative session on the program, which is a household’s last eligibility requirement
  • Streamlining voucher portability
  • Improving PHA customer service and communication for owners and managers

In addition, MPHA and several other Twin Cities PHAs have hired new staff to focus on recruitment and retention of owners and managers, and to gather and implement owners’ suggestions to expedite and improve inspection, payment, and administrative processes. Some are developing specific rent eligibility limits that are more refined to match the local market instead of relying on the regional market context. New risk mitigation programs such as Beyond Backgrounds offer reimbursement for certain losses exceeding the damage deposit. These programs often feature a landlord liaison to help owners and managers address concerns during the tenancy, and the funds themselves are rarely needed.

Family Housing Fund is launching a new strategy to expand access to homes throughout the region for households using Housing Choice Vouchers. Through dialogue with leadership in private industry, PHAs, and others, we have developed an Owner/Manager Outreach position at HousingLink that will:

  • Connect with and recruit private owners and managers to participate, including collaboration with the Minnesota Multi Housing Association to engage its members. The position will also gather constructive feedback to share with Twin Cities PHAs.
  • Build close working relationships with PHAs, partner on shared outreach objectives, and help to improve the owner / manager experience through improvements within and across agencies.
  • Develop regional data and analysis of owner / manager acceptance of HCVs in order to support targeted outreach, evaluation of various efforts, and inform additional strategies.

Please join us in supporting this important work to increase quality affordable housing opportunities across our region:

  • HousingLink has posted the new position. Please share this opportunity with qualified applicants.
  • If you are a rental property owner or manager, please learn more about the Housing Choice Voucher program and how you can provide a crucial affordable housing opportunity in your community.
  • Could you or your organization be doing more to encourage owners and managers to provide affordable housing opportunities by accepting rental subsidies? Family Housing Fund staff are available to help you brainstorm or design a stronger role in this work. We would love to hear from you.
April 30th, 2019|FHFund News|

2018 Annual Report

Family Housing Fund is pleased to share our 2018 Annual Report to the Community. We ended 2018 with a new strategic framework, and moving forward, our core work will be organized around the following three goals: Increase Supply, Expand Opportunities, and Activate More Housing Champions.

We believe building a better Minnesota starts from the ground up—it starts with a place to call home. And it requires all of us, working together, to build a strong system that supports access to decent, affordable housing for everyone.

Thank you to the staff, board of directors, generous funders, and partners that make this work possible.

Read the report here.

April 14th, 2019|FHFund News, Report|

FAQs: Saint Paul 4d Affordable Housing Incentive Program for Rental Housing Owners

The new City of Saint Paul 4d Affordable Housing Incentive Program is accepting applications through March 8, 2019.

Owners of rental housing who enroll apartments in the program receive a 40% reduction in property taxes in exchange for making a 10-year commitment to keeping rents affordable.

Detailed information about the Saint Paul 4d program, and a link to the application, is available on the City of Saint Paul website.

FHFund has compiled a list of FAQs based on real questions from interested potential participants in Saint Paul.[1]

Municipalities throughout the Twin Cities are adopting 4d Affordable Housing Incentive Programs to help preserve naturally occurring affordable housing:

Click here  to read about the experience of a participant in the Minneapolis program.

Click here to see Edina’s program guidelines for the Property Tax Reduction and Grant Program pilot; applications in Edina are accepted through March 14, 2019.

[1] While the information in this document is intended to be as accurate as possible, the City of Saint Paul and the State of Minnesota are ultimately responsible for interpreting program rules and relevant legislation.

February 28th, 2019|Fact Sheet, FHFund News, Report|

For Preserving Affordability, 4d is a Win-Win

When a friend called Beth Barron last year and asked if she’d like to save $6,000 on her property tax bill, she signed up right away to become one of the first participants in the City of Minneapolis’s new “4d” Affordability Housing Incentive Program.

Even after 25 years as the owner and manager of an 11-unit apartment building near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, Beth never thought of herself as a landlord. Together with the residents of her building, she is creating a community. She keeps her building in good repair but hasn’t added any luxury touches, preferring to keep rents reasonable and her residents stable. As a result, the building is an example of what’s commonly known as “naturally-occurring affordable housing,” offering moderate rents without any government assistance.

Beth believes that the 4d program is a win-win for rental property owners willing to try something new. The savings on her tax bill have come through as promised. Even better, she has been working with the City’s program partners to assess energy efficiency in her building, and may qualify for rebates and incentives that will pay for the majority of the cost of a new highly-efficient boiler and water heater.

In return for the reduction in her tax bill, Beth committed to keeping rents reasonable (no more than $1062 for a one-bedroom unit in 2019), which was already her plan, and to rent future available units to residents whose income does not exceed 60% of the Area Median Income (currently $45,300 for a household of two), over the next ten years.

The City of Minneapolis is accepting new applications for the 4d program through February 12, 2019; visit the program website to learn more. http://www.minneapolismn.gov/cped/housing/WCMSP-214366

FHFund has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions from potential participants in the program—download the latest FAQ here: http://www.fhfund.org/4d-faq/

This 11-unit building near Lake of the Isles, built in 1962, is one of the first to benefit from the City of Minneapolis’s 4d Affordable Housing Incentive Program.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS New Website Design & Development

Deadline: Proposals received by 1/31/2019 will receive priority consideration.
Proposals will be accepted through 2/5/2019.

About the Family Housing Fund
The Family Housing Fund believes it takes all of us working together to build a strong system that supports access to decent, affordable homes for everyone. Established in 1980, we support the Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the Metropolitan Council, and Minnesota Housing in their efforts to meet the seven-county metropolitan region’s affordable housing needs. We are unique in focusing on all facets of the housing system and working across sectors to ensure real change.

About the Project
The Family Housing Fund seeks proposals from qualified web developers to build a new website for the organization.

The Goal
The Family Housing Fund seeks to launch a new website that is consistent with its new brand identity and offers visitors both enhanced functionality and better access to relevant content. The work will also include archiving older information, adding newly developed content and merging content from our sister website www.housingcounts.org. The Family Housing Fund’s web address is www.fhfund.org.

We are currently envisioning the following four stages of work, but we welcome applicants to recommend a different phasing structure. Regardless of how the phases are structured, please provide a detailed description of the activities, anticipated timeline, and budget for each phase.

  • Discovery and Audit of Content Needs
  • Information Architecture Development
  • Visual Design
  • Launch

Request for Proposals
Family Housing Fund is soliciting proposals for the scope of work outlined in Phase II above.

Applications must be received by 11:59 pm on Tuesday February 5, 2019. Priority will be given to applications received by 11:59 pm on Thursday January 31, 2019. The application should address the following:

  1. Describe your firm and your unique experience and expertise.
  2. Who would be assigned to this project? Include bios for all relevant personnel.
  3. Describe the phases you propose for this project and the specific activities to be completed in each phase.
  4. Describe the timeline for completing this project. Do you have any other commitments or conflicts that could conceivably interfere with your ability to deliver on this timeline?
  5. What is your approach to project management and client check-ins?
  6. What is your projected budget? Include both a spreadsheet and narrative describing the use of funds and the estimated number of hours by phase.
  7. Please include brief project summaries and contact information for at least three clients who can serve as a reference for your work.
  8. Looking at the current Family Housing Fund website, are there any elements that you especially like and think are worthy of maintaining? (It’s okay to say no!) What are your ideas for the most cost-efficient way to modernize our web presence in pursuit of our stated goal?

To Apply
Send full proposal addressing all questions outlined above to colleen@fhfund.org and reference “FHFund Website Proposal” in the subject line. Applications received by 11:59 pm on Thursday January 31 will receive priority consideration. Proposals will be accepted through Tuesday February 5, 2019.

If you would like to schedule a 20-minute inquiry call to inform your proposal, send an email with key questions and calendaring options to colleen@fhfund.org.


January 23rd, 2019|FHFund News, Request For Proposal|