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Changing The Face of Housing in Minnesota (2002-2011)

In 2002, several of Minnesota’s affordable housing, planning and community development organizations took a coordinated approach to address an age-old problem: lack of inclusiveness and diversity of staff and leadership. This lack of diversity brought consequences that were damaging, resulting in missed opportunities, consumer complaints, poor service delivery, and unmet needs of community members.

In an effort to improve Minnesota’s affordable housing system by engaging and retaining more people of color, The Family Housing Fund, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), and Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) launched the Changing the Face of Housing in Minnesota (CFHM) initiative.

The CFHM initiative focused on four main strategies:

  • Increasing awareness of an industry diversity problem
  • Building a pipeline of diverse professionals (Careership Program)
  • Recruiting and retaining diverse professionals
  • Training leaders in affordable housing policy

From 2002-2011, the CFHM initiative raised awareness of the lack of diversity and inclusiveness in the Twin Cities affordable housing industry. The increase in awareness led organizations to use a wider range of recruitment tools and to make an intentional commitment to expanding diversity among their staff and board. Within the field as a whole, surveys indicated the percentage of staff members of color increased from 17% to 19% and board positions increased from 20% to 24%.

CFHM helped develop a pipeline of diverse professionals through Careership, a mid-career apprenticeship program for professionals of color.  The program included a community development curriculum and professional experience in the field that helped participants build valued knowledge and beneficial relationships in the housing industry that supported their professional growth. Of the 122 graduates of the program, 69% secured employment in the affordable housing or community development field.

CFHM simultaneously reached out to communities of color, hosting affordable housing public policy seminars and offering industry-specific job training.  The eight-week Public Policy Trainings increased awareness and understanding of affordable housing policy strategy for more than 150 participants. Many of training graduates are now engaged in efforts to influence policy change.

The CFHM initiative created opportunities for on-going industry dialogue about the lack of people of color in professional and leadership positions. The Family Housing Fund, CSH, and Twin Cities LISC continue to be a part of critical conversations with their public, private and community partners, keeping the issues of diversity and equity at the forefront of organizational and system development.