Illuminating solutions. Sparking change.
When Family Housing Fund was founded in 1980, it had a bold goal: to substantially increase the affordable housing opportunities for families in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, beginning with producing 3,200 affordable homes in its first 6 years. That wasn’t much time to address a growing and complex housing issue. But it was essential for the future success of families, and for the future success of the Twin Cities, to act quickly.
Nationwide, the population was growing. As baby boomers came of age, there were many young 20-somethings starting families and looking to purchase their first home. But in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the younger population was declining swiftly. From 1960 to 1980, both cities had lost one-fifth of their population to suburban expansion. The original proposal for Family Housing Fund outlined a clear warning: “If effective actions are not met to reverse this trend, Minneapolis and Saint Paul will be in danger of losing a diversity of population essential to their vitality.”
With significant support from the McKnight Foundation and then Saint Paul Mayor George Latimer and Minneapolis Mayor Donald Fraser, the Family Housing Fund was founded as an innovative collaboration that represented “the best of Twin Cities’ cooperation.” Together, the two cities and Family Housing Fund would work to expand grants, financial assistance, and housing supply to facilitate affordability for families to live in the cities.
The investment was a success. In Family Housing Fund’s early years, new partnerships helped spur private and non-profit development; new construction was met with innovative housing design, including the creation of smaller spaces for an aging “mature” population that allowed many to move into single units and sell their original home to younger families; and new financing models were created to increase access and affordability.
Since then, Family Housing Fund has grown and changed alongside the changing needs of Minnesotans. But its commitment to supporting innovative collaborations with housing leaders, policymakers, developers, public housing authorities, nonprofits, private landlords, homeowners, tenants, and more across the housing sector has always been central to its mission and its success in growing housing affordability across the Twin Cities region.
In the late 1990s, for example, Family Housing Fund partnered with foundations, nonprofits, private companies, cities, counties, and the state to develop research and recommendations for a more comprehensive system of supportive housing that combines affordable housing with essential social services.
In 1997, responding to the growing need for affordable housing in suburban communities and recognizing the need for a regional approach to our housing challenges, Family Housing Fund expanded its focus to serve as a housing solutions funder, convener, and educator for the entire seven-county Twin Cities metro area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington counties).
When the foreclosure crisis hit hard in 2006, Family Housing Fund partnered with numerous stakeholders to develop swift, multi-pronged approaches for keeping people in their homes — including supporting research, outreach, new product development, and models for preventing investor ownership that keeps people out of homeownership.
And Family Housing Fund has fostered collaborations between public, private, and nonprofit entities that streamline governmental processes, such as the Home Ownership Made Easy (HOME) Program, which worked with the Saint Paul Public Housing Agency and the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority to help residents of public housing and voucher holders become homeowners.
We are fortunate to have the continued support of the original founders of Family Housing Fund. For us, collaboration is essential for innovation. It’s how we work to build a stronger, more resilient housing system that supports access to affordable, high-quality housing for everyone. It’s how we activate housing champions and develop smart, sustainable housing solutions that work now and for decades to come. And it’s how we work to create innovative, evidence-based approaches and solutions that work for more people and more communities.