By many measures, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region is a great place to live. The quality of life is high, including ample green space and a vibrant arts scene; it is affordable relative to other cities; and there is a strong job market. Yet, many full time workers cannot find a home that is affordable to them.
In March 2018, the Family Housing Fund published a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify qualified firms to act as Court-appointed administrator or receiver within the context of certain legal actions to protect and preserve low-cost rental housing and the occupancy by residents thereof in the Twin Cities metropolitan region. Through a review of applications and interviews with finalist applicants, an evaluation team identified Twin Cities firms who meet the Minimum Qualifications to perform the required Scope of Services (find full details in the link below). This list may serve as a resource for the Courts, local governments, and other housing stakeholders in the Twin Cities region. Inclusion on the list in no way implies an endorsement of any firm.
What’s inside the document:
- List of 6 qualified firms summarizing expertise and contact information.
- Review Process and Evaluation Team
- Scope of Services required by the RFQ process
- Minimum Qualifications required by the RFQ process
- Future Opportunities to Apply
- Family Housing Fund mission
Since 2002, the Family Housing Fund and HousingLink have published the Housing Counts data set to provide housing leaders and other stakeholders an accurate and consistent way of tracking affordable housing (rental and homeownership) production and preservation each year in the seven-county Twin Cities region, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and suburban metropolitan communities.
Since its inception, Housing Counts has tracked investment in projects representing more than 30,000 units of affordable housing throughout the seven-county region. In 2016, a grand total of 2,898 units of housing were funded for new development or preservation.
Notes on the data:
- The list of projects identifies how many affordable units are planned/preserved at three levels of affordability—30 percent, 50 percent, and 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). This corresponds with affordability restrictions required by certain funding streams.
- The data set counts units in the year their project financing first closes and includes only developments with public and/or private capital funding that includes affordability obligations.
- The report tables divide the projects into three main categories: new production of rental units, new production of homeownership units, and preservation/stabilization of existing rental units.
- Rental assistance to renters, financial assistance directly to home buyers, and shelter beds are not included in this data set.
- Developments that are designed specifically to serve seniors are indicated with an asterisk in the reports.
- Properties included on the preservation/stabilization list were especially at risk of being lost due to major deterioration, financial crisis, or conversion to market-rate rents. This list does not include essential routine capital improvements.
- Demolition permit numbers are included to give some context to the production numbers in relation to the number of units lost in the region’s housing stock. However, the demolition number comes from demolition permit issues only; because of this, the actual number of units lost, the affordability level, and the condition of these lost units is unknown.
The Family Housing Fund is committed to working with housing authorities, local government, and private partners to create meaningful access to housing for families region wide.
The Family Housing Fund shares the Minneapolis City Councilmembers’ goal of improving access to housing for families with Housing Choice Vouchers. Prohibiting discrimination by source of income is a fundamental value that we hold. The proposed ordinance will advance that value.
However, the proposed ordinance alone is not enough to expand and protect access to privately owned rental housing for families that hold Housing Choice Vouchers.
The purpose of the Quadel study, which was commissioned by the Family Housing Fund in partnership with Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), was to offer local-market informed recommendations to improve mobility for families. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the study shows that there are administrative changes that should be considered to make the Housing Choice Voucher Program work better for families and improve the partnership with rental housing owners and managers.
MPHA has shown decisive leadership in providing information and access to complete the study and in accepting the findings. They have made a commitment to implement administrative changes. The Family Housing Fund’s goal is to support them in that work, and we encourage others to do the same.
Family Housing Fund Policy Position
The concept for rent certificates for low-income families was first pitched in the 1930s by the National Association of Realtors out of concern that subsidized public housing buildings would threaten the private real estate market (Desmond, 2016). Since then, the market has changed significantly—the demand for affordable housing substantially out paces the limited government resources to build housing. Today, the public-private partnership that was suggested during the Great Depression has grown to be a major federal housing program and the primary tool to provide low-income families with choice in where they live.
The federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program supports about 35,000 households in Minnesota (Minnesota Housing, March 2015), ensuring that they are not one of the nearly 600,000 households that are housing cost burdened and facing related health and employment challenges (Minnesota Compass). The benefits of the HCV program to families and the market, however, are limited by the way program implementation has evolved over the last several decades.
In the past year, the Family Housing Fund (FHFund) has undertaken two bodies of work to optimize the HCV program locally, as a way to get more owners/managers to participate. First, the Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity (OMCO) project explored why some local owners/managers engage with the HCV program and others do not. The primary takeaway from the project was a need to enhance the partnership between public housing authorities (PHAs) and the property owners/managers. Secondly, the FHFund retained Quadel Consulting and Training on behalf of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) to assess their HCV program administration and identify strategies to maximize resident choice. This assessment also identified a need to develop more collaborative relationships.
The focus in both of these reports on improving the public-private partnership is not a coincidence, and it is not a need isolated to Minneapolis or even the Twin Cities region. As all PHAs consider how to support family success by getting more owners/managers to participate in the HCV program, thus expanding access to housing choice, fitting the rental assistance program into a property owners’/managers’ business must be a central strategy.
To achieve this, the first order of business for the affordable housing network is to embrace their role in the HCV collaboration and make administrative changes that reflect the value of what property owners/manager bring to the partnership: a home. In his first month of leadership at MPHA, Executive Director Greg Russ has committed to advancing some of the recommendations from the assessment prepared by Quadel, and outlining a plan for future changes. This is a critical first step.
Recognizing low-income families’ housing choice challenges, Minneapolis Councilmembers Glidden, Warsame, and Goodman have proposed an amendment to the City’s Civil Rights Ordinance that will prohibit discrimination based on source of income. This is an important value that the FHFund and affordable housing network hold: a family should be able to rent a home regardless of whether they pay rent through government assistance or income from a job.
The Councilmembers’ and affordable housing network’s goal is to have more property owners/managers participate in the HCV program in order to expand low income families’ housing choices. And any steps that PHAs and the City take to improve access to affordable housing must include an intentional evaluative component to understand if the intervention is creating the desired change or if a course correction is necessary. However, the ordinance alone will not meet its goal because it does not help families and PHAs overcome the practical, administrative issues with the HCV program. The OMCO and Quadel reports offer a clear conclusion that improving the public-private partnership will move the system closer to this goal.
A mandate not to discriminate, without significant administrative changes first, is unlikely to establish housing choice for low-income families. PHAs, with the support of their cities, must make changes to the way they administer the HCV program, stimulating its fit and connection to the business of real estate. Once these changes are implemented, the community can codify its value of nondiscrimination by source of income.