News & Events

Home/News & Events/

MPHA & FHFund team up to explore regional approach to housing vouchers

Possible partnership among metro housing authorities would mean greater mobility, opportunity, and choice for low-income families

The Family Housing Fund has awarded $300,000 over two years to the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) to explore how the region’s public housing authorities can work together to provide metro-wide mobility for families with housing vouchers (also known as “Section 8”). The “Regional Mobility Initiative” will involve planning and coordination with partner PHAs, policy and operational changes, and a long-term research component to track outcomes for families.

“The structure we have in our region—with separate public housing agencies all administering their own vouchers—creates barriers for families seeking different neighborhoods and greater opportunity,” says MPHA Executive Director/CEO Greg Russ. “The core idea is to discover how agencies in the Twin Cities can collaborate to increase the ‘choice’ in the Housing Choice Voucher program.”

The initiative will become part of a national research collaboration called “Creating Moves to Opportunity” (CMTO). CMTO is a partnership of housing practitioners from 17 housing authorities and academic institutions including Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and the think-tank MDRC. Through this research partnership, Stanford economist Raj Chetty and his collaborators have found that younger children of voucher-holding families who move to low-poverty neighborhoods experience long-term improvements in education and income, along with near-term improvements in health and safety. The Twin Cities Regional Mobility Initiative will also seek to integrate researchers from the University of Minnesota to maximize local insights.

“The Regional Mobility Initiative continues to build on the dedicated work of the Family Housing Fund and collaboration among many partners that seeks to expand access and choice for families in our region,” says Family Housing Fund President Ellen Sahli. “We are pleased to be partnering with MPHA, area HRAs, and landlords on this innovative approach. This is one of a number of initiatives that we have supported with area PHA/HRAs that puts choice and opportunity at the forefront.”

FHFund Appoints Three New Board Members

At the Family Housing Fund’s (FHFund) 2017 Annual Meeting on April 13th, the Board of Directors elected new officers for the upcoming year. All of the elections and appointments embody the strong public-private partnerships that are necessary to meet the FHFund’s vision that all families will have a home they can afford and a place from which they can prosper and contribute to the larger community.

Jim Roth, Executive Director of Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, was elected to a new three-year term and as the Chair of the Board. Roth has served on the FHFund Board since 2011.

Charles Hanley, Vice President/District Manager at U.S. Bank, was reelected as Vice-President/Treasurer. The Metropolitan Council appointed Hanley to the Board in 2006.

Senta Leff, Executive Director of Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless; Kristin Beckmann, Deputy Mayor – City of St Paul; and George Stone, Director – Minnesota CSH were elected as Vice Presidents of the Board. The City of Minneapolis appointed Leff to the Board in 2015; she Chairs the Resource Development Committee. The City of St. Paul appointed Beckmann to the Board in 2014; she Chairs the Nominating Committee. Stone has served on the Board since 2005 and was elected to a new three-year term at the Annual Meeting.

Miko Salone, FHFund Office Manager and Executive Assistant, was reelected as Secretary, a nonvoting role.

The Board also elected Doug Van Metre, Lead Regional Credit Officer at Wells Fargo, to a new three-year term. Van Meter has served on the Board since 2014.

The Board also elected two new members: Jennifer Anderson, Senior Vice President and CFO at Community Reinvestment Fund, and Nichol Beckstrand, President at Sunrise Banks.

The Board recognized Metropolitan Council Chairman Adam Duininck’s appointment of Gail Dorfman, Executive Director of St. Stephen’s Human Services, for a three-year term.

The Board and staff gratefully acknowledged the contributions of three departing members. Maureen Warren, Vice President and Chief Family Services Officer at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, left the Board after nine years of service. Warren had served as the Board Chair since 2011. Paul Williams, President and CEO at Project for Pride in Living, Inc., left the position of Vice President of the Board after 16 years of service. Peter Lindstrom, Mayor of Falcon Heights, left the Board after three years of service.

The FHFund Board can have up to 24 members. As a supporting organization of government, the FHFund Board is made up of both elected and appointed members. The FHFund Board elects eight members. The City of Minneapolis, City of St. Paul, Metropolitan Council, and Minnesota Housing appoint four members each. The Board recognizes these appointments. This unique structure positions the FHFund with the broad support and expertise necessary to help communities meet their affordable housing needs.

For more information and a complete list of members of the Board of Directors, please visit our Staff and Board page.

April 18th, 2017|FHFund News, Press Release|

Increasing Owner/Manager Participation in the Housing Choice Voucher Program

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.

Choice & Mobility Study

View the Executive Summary of Expanding Access to Housing Choice In Minneapolis (Quadel Consulting and Training)

View Expanding Access to Housing Choice In Minneapolis (Quadel Consulting and Training)

View the MPHA Response to the Choice & Mobility Study 

Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity

View the Owners/Managers Creating Opportunity Report

Statement updated 3/21/17 12:57

New Realities for Minnesota’s Tax Exempt Bonding Authority for Housing

On March 2, 2017 the Family Housing Fund and Greater Minnesota Housing Fund hosted a forum with leaders of the affordable housing network to learn about the new realities that impact availability of federally authorized tax-exempt bonds in Minnesota. The discussion centered on a new proposal from Housing Advocates for Vitality and Equity Now (HAVEN) and how it could affect other housing resources.

Panelists Included:

  • Ryan Baumtrog, Assistant Commissioner for Policy, Minnesota Housing
  • Paul Sween, Managing Partner, Dominium
  • Owen Metz, Vice President and Project Partner, Dominium
  • Pam Wheelock, Chief Operating Officer, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Handouts from the forum:

March 2nd, 2017|FHFund News, Housing Policy|

Housing Counts 2015 Data Set Released

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 in the seven-county Twin Cities region. Starting with 2002, the Housing Counts report includes an annual accounting of Minneapolis and Saint Paul affordable housing projects for which funding closed in the given year. Starting in 2004, affordable housing housing production and preservation is tracked for the balance of the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. Please note that developments that are designed specifically to serve seniors are indicated with an asterisk in the reports.

Each year, 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 and allows for a more detailed tracking of who is being served by the units. Limiting the report to projects targeted at these AMI levels provides the clearest sense of the housing options available to households at the lowest levels of income. As a result, units targeted at households earning 80 to 120 percent of AMI have not been included, although we recognize that these units are a critical resource for low income and working families.

It is important to recognize that when tracking new production and/or preservation of affordable housing, there are several points in time when a unit could be “counted.” HousingLink and the Family Housing Fund have chosen to count units in the year their funding first closes for two primary reasons. First, when the financing closes, one can be reasonably assured that the project will come to fruition. If we counted units when the funding was first committed, projects are still at relatively high risk for unforeseen circumstances, cancellation, or significant changes to the scope of a deal. Second, counting at funding closing “gives credit when credit is due,” since it is the closest point in time to when decision-makers commit to the project moving forward. If we waited to count the units when construction of the project is completed or the building is occupied, it could be a year, two years, or even more after closing.

Only developments with public and/or private capital funding that includes affordability obligations are listed. It is important to note that rental assistance to renters and financial assistance to home buyers are not tracked. Furthermore, ownership units are counted only when there is capital and/or value gap financing involved rather than as a result of affordability gap financing. Please note that shelter beds are not included in the charts and tables. While providing emergency shelter is an important part of addressing homelessness in our community, shelter beds are neither “units” nor a lasting housing solution for low-income individuals and families.

The report tables also divide the projects into three main categories: new production of rental units, new production of homeownership units, and preservation/stabilization of existing rental units. Properties included on the preservation/stabilization list are those that were especially at risk of being lost due to major deterioration, financial crisis, or conversion to market-rate rents. It is important to note that this list does not include the essential routine capital improvements that also contribute to the ongoing viability of properties.

Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that the need for preservation of existing properties varies considerably from year to year. Factors that affect the timing of resources needed for this purpose include the age and condition of properties, the expiration date of use restrictions, the assembly of stabilization packages by multiple funders, etc. Any given year’s preservation activity is no indication of past or future commitments.

Finally, to provide a sense of the overall state of affordable housing throughout the seven-county metropolitan area, Housing Counts also includes the following two statistics:

  • The number of demolition permits issued each year in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This number is included to give some context to the production numbers because real progress can only be tracked in relation to the number of units lost. However, it is vital to note that 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. While some of the units lost to demolition are affordable units, some may have been substandard or vacant, and others market-rate. It is an imperfect measure, but we felt it was important to report demolitions in order to maintain the visibility of this important counterforce to affordable housing development.
  • A summary of the units converted to market-rate in the suburbs. As with the demolition permit count, this number gives context to the current state of affordable housing. The conversion of these units from affordable to market-rate has a significant effect on the overall supply of affordable units in the metropolitan area.

View Housing Counts 2015 (PDF)

View Housing Counts 2002-2015 (PDF)

December 29th, 2016|Data, Report|