Asad Aliweyd wants to rebuild the housing system, beginning with how immigrant communities can build wealth
As a PhD student, the director of the New American Development Center, and a 2018 Bush Fellow, fighting for housing solutions is a central theme in every aspect of Asad Aliweyd’s innovative work. “Everybody should have safe and decent, affordable housing,” he says. “This is a human right. It’s very important to me, but also for immigrant communities to be successful.”
For Asad, his dedication to finding housing solutions, especially for East African and Muslim communities, didn’t begin in nonprofits. It began in a high school in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where he was a teacher.
“When I was a teacher, I was trying to do something about the achievement gap. I thought, these kids need mentorship or leadership. I would do afterschool youth activities. And I would see some 40 percent of these students leaving: they would be moving to Shakopee or some other community because the rents were too high or because their building was being purchased by a different company and they had to leave. To be told that you have to move again and again… the trauma and the stress… They get to know the schools and the park and the neighborhood, but then they have to leave again. If children didn’t have a stable place, they were not able to succeed.”
Since then, Asad has developed a working committee of representatives from banks, universities, nonprofits, community developers, and city and public officials to host collaborative conversations and develop ideas for affordable housing solutions. These solutions include building new financial models for wealth building in Muslim communities. At the heart of every idea, Asad says, is support for both family and financial success within the immigrant community.
“If you don’t develop housing for families – including large families with many children – you are not meeting the needs of the community. And you cannot talk about economic sustainability without first talking about housing stability. This is why building coalitions and listening to what the community needs is so important. If we can address the affordable housing issue, we can make communities more sustainable and successful.”