From tenant organizing to founding and leading a nonprofit advocacy and community development organization, the Minnesota Housing Partnership (MHP), Chip Halbach has dedicated his life to advancing stable, affordable housing in Minnesota and beyond.
This September, he'll end his tenure as Executive Director, making way for new leadership at MHP and new outlets for his deep commitment to homes for all.
"Before Google, the answer to your affordable housing questions was usually found in Chip Halbach," says Warren Hanson, Executive Director of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. "As the founder of MHP, Chip created and built and led MHP to become the go-to housing organization to respond to housing demands and create strategic solutions.”
Throughout his 40-year career in affordable housing, Chip has shown a keen instinct for identifying opportunities — and convening other leaders to develop creative ways to seize them. In his early work, Chip saw that few housing groups were engaged in statewide advocacy efforts, community development assistance, or communications around housing. In the late 1980s, Governor Rudy Perpich established a commission to promote affordable housing in Minnesota. In this convening of advocates, Chip recognized an opportunity to create an organization for statewide housing advocacy — and MHP was born.
"Chip's level of dedication and technical knowledge in affordable housing matters are unmatched," says Jeff Koerselman, Attorney / Shareholder at Winthrop & Weinstine. "He has shown me that, to be an effective advocate for this industry, one needs to have both technical knowledge and deep relationships."
Over the next three decades, MHP became a respected advocacy, community development, and housing communications leader. Chip and his staff advocated for — and achieved — key housing policy goals such as establishing a tax credit for affordable rentals and securing funds for a national housing trust. Chip positioned MHP as a resource for other housing organizations through timely research reports, and he convened a skilled team to deliver technical assistance to rural communities not only in Minnesota, but in nearly every U.S. state.
"Chip has represented Minnesota at meetings with HUD Secretaries and White House officials, and he has always led effective delegations of Minnesota residents when meeting with Members of Congress," says Ed Gramlich, Senior Advisor at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "And, he's always done this with a wry sense of humor."
Because MHP’s work encompassed a broad constituency, Chip was well aware that MHP played an important role in bringing the affordable housing community together. By instigating the convening of the Homes for All Coalition, Chip helped housing advocates align their efforts. And, by founding the MHP Investors Council, Chip created a strong, engaged network of nonprofit, for-profit, and government housing leaders to advocate on behalf of affordable housing. Chip’s ability to foster partnerships allowed him to bring innovative ideas to fruition.
“Chip’s creative approaches and strategies help to open up our industry's thinking about the possibilities of how we might increase investments to address housing needs," says Anne Mavity, Director of New Projects at Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. "MHP is part of the glue that holds the stakeholders in the affordable housing community together.”
Under Chip’s leadership, MHP has constantly evolved, responding nimbly to the changing housing landscape. Through that change, Chip’s passion and high integrity as a leader held steady. "One of our hallmarks is figuring out what holds different stakeholders together and how do you manage the conflicts that always develop," Chip says. "I’m energized by that. Some people would say I’m conflict-averse but to me conflicts arise because there’s really a hidden bridge that can create a common ground or a resolution."
Now, as MHP seeks a bridge to new leadership, Chip says MHP is well positioned to continue to grow and thrive. "While it is hard to leave an organization that has been such a significant part of my life, I feel a foundation has been laid that will enable MHP to advance equitable communities with homes for all through the years ahead," he says. "We have in place a seasoned and accomplished board and staff, and many terrific partnerships in Minnesota and nationally. It is the strength of these relationships that is MHP’s greatest resource."
Paul Sween, a Managing Partner at Dominium and chair of the MHP board, agrees. “Chip's leadership shines in both his detailed understanding of a highly technical, complex field — and his capacity to convey that expertise in a way that fosters consensus and inspires people to coalesce around an issue," Sween says. "These strengths have proven to be a powerful combination throughout Chip’s career — and have positioned MHP for a bright future. Thanks to his leadership and vision, MHP is more relevant than ever and looking forward to finding a capable Executive Director that will bring new energy to our critical work while also building on Chip's incredible legacy."
If you're interested in the position — or know someone who can lead MHP — click here for the Executive Director Position Profile.
Photos by Scott Streble