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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|

Board Member Spotlight

Board Chair Nichol Beckstrand

Tell us about your background and why you care about expanding housing opportunities.

My background is really in the finance and consulting space. I spent twelve years consulting for financial institutions and twelve years as a banker. I love to help people and I think that is why I originally got involved in housing in a volunteer basis through Boards and non profit house builds. I also love compliance so the policy around housing is interesting to me. What really kept me in this space though is how I see stable housing as an equalizer in society. Regardless of whether it is rental or ownership, stable, safe housing sets people up to address the other challenges that modern day life is throwing at us. These challenges seem unsurmountable somedays and safe housing is a respite. I view my home (and my family) as a respite. It is where I go when I need some rest. It is where I can be undeniably myself.

Why were you interested in serving on the Family Housing Fund board?

I love what Family Housing Fund is doing. Through their intermediary role they get to impact Housing in many different ways. There is a big element to the finance of what they do that hits my finance mind but the real pleasure comes in seeing the results. Family Housing Fund just recently adopted their new Manifesto statement that challenges them to be bold. I love this about FHF.

What housing aspirations do you have for the region?

Wouldn’t we all say that everyone is housed is the aspirational goal. I think it goes a bit beyond this and I see the diversity of housing that is needed for a lifetime of lifestyles. If we can accomplish this while also keeping it affordable so individuals and families have more dollars to spend on living and engaging with one another that is the goal.

What is one area where you think people generally fail to think big enough – and what is your vision for change?

I have been known to create many new innovations and products in my lifetime, both as a banker and as a consultant. I think people have the ability to think big but then fail to be able to break that big thinking down into bite size chunks that they can execute on. We often put a lot of focus on the visionaries of our world. I always say a great vision is just another idea without the execution. The skill really comes in taking the vision to life.

What do you do for fun?

Ride my bike, hang with my husband and kids. Right now I am the head of transportation services for the Beckstrand family so we are carting kids around to sports and events every evening. We are in a very fun time in our children’s lives and we are just taking it all in as we know it will go fast.

April 29th, 2019|Board Member Spotlight|

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|

Board Member Spotlight

Board Chair Jim Roth

Tell us about your background and why you care about expanding housing opportunities.

When I came to my current position at MCCD over 16 years ago, I had very little knowledge of or contact with the housing industry. My previous experience was in workforce development. But, as I was thrown into the role of advocate for affordable housing, I quickly learned of the many challenges our nonprofit housing members faced, and the limited resources they competed for – amongst themselves, as well as with the many for-profit developers.

I am pleased that MCCD and the many advocates collaborating at City Hall and the State Capitol over the past decade have enjoyed some successes in bringing more resources to the affordable housing industry. However, as we now all know, we are losing more affordable housing every year than we create. More and more Minnesotans are becoming cost-burdened in securing or maintaining their housing.

The need for developing new affordable housing, while preserving the existing stock is attracting greater attention these days. Advocates, along with developers, have raised the visibility of the worsening affordable housing market, and policymakers have taken notice. Local, county and state governmental agencies are stepping up, as is the business community. But we have a long challenge ahead. I appreciate the work of the Family Housing Fund in this effort, and am proud to Chair an engaged and knowledgeable Board of Directors.

Why were you interested in serving on the Family Housing Fund board?

When I came on the board in October of 2011, I was not your typical “recruited and invited” board member. Following a series of meetings between MCCD board members and Tom Fulton, the founding President of the FHF, it was agreed that MCCD should have a permanent seat on the board. The intention was to bring the nonprofit housing developer perspective to the board, and also allow for more transparency from the FHF to our members. In my mind, it’s been a win-win for both organizations.

What housing aspirations do you have for the region?

Simply put, it is my hope that one day, all residents of the region can find an affordable home in any community where they choose to live. That said, I have to admit I am not particularly optimistic that this can be achieved, but the effort to achieve that aspiration must continue.

What is one area where you think people generally fail to think big enough – and what is your vision for change?

I’m sure there are plenty of areas that people don’t think big, but that to me, doesn’t equate with failure. Scholars, researchers, private citizens can think big, and perhaps bring forward some new ideas. But big, dramatic proposals that might have merit, don’t come without risks. Speaking as an affordable housing advocate, I have to think, “What will get me the votes I need to get something enacted at City Hall or the state capitol?” Reaching too far with a big, bold policy change or appropriation request can turnoff even those electeds that care about the cause.

That’s not to say there aren’t times to make a push. But it has to be well thought out, timed well, and carried out by a credible advocacy coalition. MCCD’s Make Homes Happen Minneapolis (MHHM) is one such example.

With many of our housing members and other community advocates, MHHM set out to raise the visibility of the growing need for affordable housing in the city, and to encourage a greater commitment to fund it. By coordinating a series of candidate forums on affordable housing for city council seats and a mayoral forum during the 2017 campaign season, the group drew a good deal of media attention, as well as many strong supporters among the candidates.

Recognizing the momentum created and the opportunity presented, MHHM went “large on the ask.” For the previous 15 years, the city generally met a stated goal of $10M to fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. MHHM decided the timing was right to push for $50M for 2019 — a number five times greater than any previous year, and a figure thought unrealistic by many. While the final approved amount was $40M for affordable housing, MHHM was recognized by Mayor Frey for their efforts to push him and the council.

While there was great appreciation for the city’s support within MHHM, work remains. The ultimate aim for the group is to work with the city to find a dedicated funding stream(s) to continue this level of annual commitment. To achieve that goal, MHHM will continue the strong collaboration of advocates, research funding ideas from across the country, and work closely with the city to identify possible sources.

What do you do for fun?

Biking. So right now, I’m not having much fun. ☹

February 25th, 2019|Board Member Spotlight|