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Board Member Spotlight

Jonathan Weinhagen

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

Business is in my blood. After spending over a decade leading in my family’s fourth generation company in Saint Paul, I took a role at the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and now lead the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. Housing affordability is increasingly an area of concern for employers and employees. People who are worried about losing their homes can’t be productive. We need to consider housing as a key part of our region’s economic infrastructure and recognize the important role it plays in our economic competitiveness.

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

Honestly, it was a bit selfish and as I write this, I realize that I should probably keep that to myself! For much of the decade I’ve spent advocating on behalf of the business community in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Region, housing has not been a top tier priority – or priority at all. As it became increasingly clear that housing was emerging as a critical business issue, I needed to gain some expertise. I’ve learned a tremendous amount through my service on the board and am passionate about the work that the Family Housing Fund advances.

What housing aspirations do you have for the region?

That’s simple: Safe, stable, and affordable housing for everyone. Period.

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

I don’t think you can pick just one area, especially in Minnesota. We love to talk about the “Minnesota Miracle,” but today we consistently underestimate ourselves and fail to cast a grand vision to solve some of our region’s and state’s greatest challenges. We seem to self-moderate and have resigned to accepting incremental progress. It’s been half a century, folks. Perhaps it’s time for “Minnesota Miracle 2.0!”

What do you do for fun?

As lame as the saying, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” is, it’s true. I have fun advocating for our region every day. When I’m not doing that I’m on my road bike, hanging out with my wife and four boys or having a martini.

June 7th, 2019|Board Member Spotlight|

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

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|