Jul 16, 2019

Carol Berde invites more people—and more ideas— to the table

Carol Berde has made affordable housing her lifelong mission. For more than two decades, she served as the executive vice president of the McKnight Foundation, where she was instrumental in developing programs to support equity, access, and affordability in housing. In 1984, she helped McKnight develop the Family Loan Program, an innovative financial model designed to help low-income families in Minnesota achieve housing and self-sufficiency through grant-based loans.

But for Carol, working for affordable housing has been more than a professional role. It’s a personal one, too.

“I believe deeply that a community of secure families, successful students, effective workers, and a robust civic life rests on a foundation of stable, decent, affordable housing for all,” Carol says. “Each of us has a responsibility to send that message, often, to public officials in our community.”

Carol served on the boards of the Family Housing Fund and Hearth Connection, a nonprofit demonstrating a model for addressing homelessness. It was in these positions, and through her work in the community, that she saw how strategic, deep collaborations could lead to innovation and solutions.

“A lot of solutions that were tried and effective in the ’80s and ’90s can still be effective today with some tweaking and new voices and ideas,” Carol says. “But to get there, it takes a lot of knowledgeable, committed people coming together to develop solutions and tools. What new ideas can people bring? What new people and groups can be invited to talk about their ideas? This is where creative financial models are born. This is where we find tangible solutions to affordable housing.”

“It’s so critical right now that the public understands the importance of affordable housing. Now is the time to hear it: There is not enough housing for everybody. I think people are ready to hear that now. I think people are ready to understand that and work towards solutions.”

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