When Family Housing Fund was founded in 1980, we faced complex and worsening housing issues. 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.”
We knew we had to act quickly, so we set forth with a bold goal: to substantially increase affordable housing for families in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, beginning with producing 3,200 affordable homes in our first six years. With significant support from the McKnight Foundation and then-mayors George Latimer of Saint Paul and Donald Fraser of Minneapolis, 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.
Since then, Family Housing Fund has grown and changed alongside the evolving needs of Minnesotans. But our commitment to supporting innovative collaborations with policymakers, developers, public housing authorities, diverse community developers and community-based organizations, private landlords, homeowners, and tenants has always been central to our mission and our success in growing housing affordability across the region. For example:
- Since our founding, Family Housing Fund has made thousands of homeownership loans and multifamily development loans that have created affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for families throughout the region.
- In the late 1990s, 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 affordability with essential social services.
- In 1997, 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, responding to the growing need for affordable housing in suburban communities and recognizing the need for a regional approach to our housing challenges.
- In 2006, Family Housing Fund partnered with numerous stakeholders to develop swift, multi-pronged approaches for keeping people in their homes during the foreclosure crisis—including supporting research, outreach, new product development, and models for preventing investor ownership that keeps people out of homeownership.
- In 2008, Family Housing Fund led a collaborative called Changing the Face of Housing in Minnesota, which supported local housing, planning, and community development organizations in their efforts to recruit and maintain diverse boards of directors and to recruit, hire, and retain diverse staff.
- In 2013, Family Housing Fund fostered 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.
- In 2020 and 2021, Family Housing Fund rapidly deployed resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including administering emergency rental assistance, ramping up a regional eviction prevention strategy, and conducting research that revealed that BIPOC neighborhoods were most impacted by the pandemic, unemployment, and housing instability.
The thread running through all these success stories is our collaborative and systemic approach. Working with diverse partners and uniting across sectors and communities is how we will build a strong, equitable and resilient housing system for everyone. Our unique role is to mobilize the people, policies and resources necessary to identify and fill gaps in the regional housing system. We remain committed to activating housing champions to design and advocate for smart, sustainable housing solutions that work now and for decades to come.