Jul 29, 2019

George Latimer helped found Family Housing Fund to bring more families to Saint Paul

Today, he says it’s as essential to understand the changing definition of “family” as it is to build affordable housing.

As mayor of Saint Paul from 1976 to 1990, George Latimer had an essential role in championing affordable housing and turning Saint Paul into the vibrant, thriving city that it is today. “Early on, I saw that housing was a powerful shaper of communities in a city,” he says.  “In particular, having affordable housing within reach of as many people as possible was an early and important goal.”

Together with the McKnight Foundation and then Minneapolis Mayor Donald Fraser, he helped found the Family Housing Fund to ensure more people and families could thrive. At the time, the two cities were losing population to suburban expansion—in part because there was a shortage of accessible homes. The cities lacked sufficient rental housing, and with interest rates hovering at 13 percent, homeownership was out of reach. Many families couldn’t begin to build a life in the cities, let alone prosper.

The two mayors convened to launch a first-of-its-kind housing initiative that was deemed “the best of Twin Cities’ cooperation” in an effort to spur vitality in the cities.

Working together, the two cities and Family Housing Fund helped support innovative solutions like new financial models and grants, new housing designed for an aging population, and new methods for increasing affordable housing supply.

“I don’t think that we could have achieved the marvelous mix of affordable housing along with middle income and upper middle income in Saint Paul but for the Family Housing Fund and its rippling effects,” he says. “So that notion of decent, safe, affordable housing for every family of every income is one of our legacies in Saint Paul.”

As Mayor Latimer contemplates the region’s current and future housing needs, he is optimistic. ” Watching my grandchildren and the post-millennial population growing, I think the housing of the future has to be very intentional at reflecting the new emerging and broadened definition of what a family and what a community is.” As the population and our communities change and become more diverse and multi-cultural, it’s essential that we understand everyone’s needs for housing and what “family” means to them, and how a safe, stable home helps them grow and prosper together. 

Photo credit: Mike Zerby, Copyright 1988, Star Tribune.

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