Highlights From Our Core Program Areas
Small multifamily buildings (duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes) represent an affordable entry to real estate investment. When a first-time buyer purchases a 2-4 unit building, they can earn additional income from rent, additional mortgage paydown, and additional appreciation. They also have the option to provide housing to their family, friends, and community if they so choose.
With a collaborative of partners, Family Housing Fund is helping first-time homebuyers build wealth as owner-occupant landlords of 2-4 unit buildings. By focusing our efforts in neighborhoods of color with low homeownership rates, we aim to significantly reduce racial disparities in homeownership and wealth.
We need housing options that are affordable and accessible at every income level. We need housing options that are available in all neighborhoods across the metro region. And we need homes that meet our needs throughout our lives as we grow our families, downsize, and age in place. This requires multiple strategies that work together to produce more homes.
For example, Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are a flexible, neighborhood-scale solution to regional housing shortage. They provide affordable options in the private market as a form of small-scale infill housing, and they provide opportunities for multigenerational living and aging in place. With the release and distribution of Home + home: Twin Cities ADU Guidebook for Homeowners, Family Housing Fund is working to increase production of ADUs. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits ADUs can create for homeowners in your community, please contact Sarah Berke.
Family Housing Fund also supports zoning changes that are responsive to communities’ needs. Recently, we have helped convene experts, policy makers, and stakeholders to learn more about inclusionary zoning, which you can read about via the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Half of our region’s affordable housing is considered naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), which is affordable on the private market without public subsidy due to factors such as age. We estimate 1,300 of these affordable units are lost each year after sale or following renovation. Family Housing Fund supports the preservation of NOAH and has targeted efforts for the preservation of townhomes and manufactured home communities. We have established a Preservation Pipeline to connect preservation-oriented buyers and sellers to each other and to resources, including a tax brief on bargain sales.
If you are considering the sale of your building and would like more information on preservation, please contact Sarah Berke.
Family Housing Fund supports local governments in optimizing public resources and processes for creating new affordable housing opportunities. We have created a set of resources for policy makers that inventories public lands strategies used across the country, including sample ordinances to create a proactive policy of utilizing public lands for affordable housing. Prioritizing public lands for affordable housing could advance equitable transit-oriented opportunity, ensuring new transit development connects low-income residents and communities of color to regional economic opportunity.
Together with the Urban Land Institute, we compiled the Housing Counts Policy Toolbox, a resource for policymakers to explore different mechanisms at their disposal for building and preserving affordable housing in their communities. We continue to promote these strategies and explore emerging opportunities for local governments to build and preserve housing options.
Recognizing that the rising cost of materials and labor shortage has driven up the cost of development, Family Housing Fund is exploring and testing strategies to flatten or decrease the cost of development to allow for more affordability in newly constructed homes. We co-hosted the 2019 Construction Revolution Summit, which convened a variety of industry stakeholders and engaged new partners in exploring an off-site construction industry to drive down development costs. Return to this page for updates on the resulting industry recommendations, and learn more about off-site construction methods in our primer: Building Affordably.
In 2018, Family Housing Fund launched the Ramsey County Housing Court Clinic, working closely with a group of partners including lawyers, mediators, and financial assistance workers to add a set of resources that had not previously been available to renters facing eviction at Court. We supported mediation organizations across the region to expand beyond the Courthouse and offer their services to property owners prior to eviction filing in the hopes of averting the damage of a filing.
Ramsey Housing Court has since added resource information on the Eviction Summons and amended the template Settlement Form, prompting parties to note whether an expungement is part of the agreement. As a result, more than half of the settlements our legal aid partners have observed now include expungements, greatly increasing renters’ ability to find housing in the future. With the success of the Ramsey County Housing Court Clinic, we are now working with other judicial districts across the region to explore this model.
We continue to focus on getting further upstream from Housing Court in order to address the root causes of eviction. We encourage landlords and tenants to use mediation services before an eviction filing, and by working with our community partners, we are identifying problematic buildings and predatory leasing practices that may lead to frequent evictions.
Family Housing Fund is working to ensure the health and safety of the region’s housing stock and to enhance its long-term physical and economic viability. With help from our partners in the community, local governments, the rental housing industry, and public interest law, we are developing strategies to prevent and identify buildings suffering from substandard conditions or management and to help cities, communities, and renter households enforce habitability codes and covenants while preventing involuntary renter displacement.
We are developing a Twin Cities training and support system tailored to the unique needs and time constraints of new, part-time, and small-scale rental property owners. We are also developing a health and safety litigation strategy with provision of revolving funds to facilitate rent escrow filings where appropriate. We maintain a list of Qualified Rental Housing Administrators and Receivers to encourage cities, communities, and renters to file Tenant Remedies Actions where appropriate in the Twin Cities region, with funds to facilitate timely repairs overseen by a court and ultimately paid for by the property owner. Learn more about these efforts to ensure homes in the region are safe and healthy.
In our competitive housing market, low-income renters with poor credit histories and other background barriers, including a prior eviction or criminal conviction, often struggle to access quality housing they can afford. Family Housing Fund is working with property owners and community-based organizations to better understand tenant selection practices and their impact on renter-applicants, communities, and markets. Working with rental property owners and industry leadership, we are also developing market-based evidence to inform new tenant selection tools and strategies that help rental owners to more fairly and accurately assess the risk associated with each applicant’s credit, rental, and criminal background.
Additionally, to help renters address barriers in their backgrounds and expand their future housing options, we are investing in credit building programs for renters with low or nonexistent credit. We are engaging rental property owners in these efforts to fully understand the efficacy of these programs and to develop referral systems.
Family Housing Fund is investing in strategies to expand access to homes throughout the region for households using rental subsidies. The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, originally launched as the Section 8 program, assists households earning less than half of the area median income to secure affordable housing in the private market. 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. We are working to engage and encourage property owners and managers to participate in the program and to gather their feedback and ideas while supporting public housing authorities in their efforts to make improvements to the program’s administration.
Do you own rental property in the Twin Cities? Consider listing your property on HousingLink.org.
Activating Housing Champions
A sufficient supply of housing affordable to households all along the income spectrum is critical to supporting a vibrant and sustainable regional economy that allows everyone to thrive. Family Housing Fund understands that housing is critical infrastructure that is a prerequisite to economic prosperity, and so commissioned an analysis of the potential economic consequences over the next 20 years if we fail to address our housing shortage. The results can be found in Housing and Economic Growth in the Twin Cities Region: Quantifying the Critical Link between Housing Supply and the Region’s Economic Prosperity, and we are broadly sharing these findings to engage new stakeholders.
Family Housing Fund is a convener of Prosperity’s Front Door, a network of business, government, and nonprofit leaders seeking economic prosperity for all by advancing recommendations developed by the Minnesota Task Force on Housing in 2018. Prosperity’s Front Door was created in 2019 as a cross-sector, multi-stakeholder network to advance the goal that every Minnesotan has a place to live in a thriving community.