When it comes to regional planning for fair housing, the Twin Cities could soon be a model for the rest of the nation.
In May, a group of government officials and community leaders started a year-long process to more deeply investigate the barriers to fair housing faced by communities of color and rewrite a key document that informs how federal dollars flow into the Twin Cities region.
Precipitated by a legal complaint to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) brought by several community groups, the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul joined by other local government grantees of HUD agreed to go back to the table — a new table shared with representatives of communities of color — and dig deeper into its Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing.
"Families deserve real housing choice and increased opportunity to move ahead," Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity said in a May statement. "These agreements place Minneapolis and St. Paul at the forefront of city and regional planning that incorporates fair housing as one of its stated goals.”
How will that happen? Who’s involved? What’s the plan? MHP was tapped by HUD as the facilitator of the process — one that is complicated and challenging, but also rich with authentic dialogue and community engagement that aims to get at the root of housing inequity in the region.
Here’s the who, what, when, where and why of this important process.
In the throes of a mental health crisis, no one should have to worry about how they’re going to pay the rent. When that crisis requires treatment or hospitalization, they shouldn’t have to choose between getting well or getting evicted.
The Crisis Housing Fund was established to make sure that no low-income Minnesotan has to face those impossible choices.
Established by state legislation in 1993 and unique to Minnesota nationwide, the Crisis Housing Fund helps cover the rent or mortgage and other housing related expenses of residents while they receive care for serious mental illness. Administered by the Minnesota Housing Partnership for the state Department of Human Services the program provides short-term financial assistance to people whose income is being used to pay for an inpatient or residential mental health treatment of 90 days or less.
Over the past two decades, thousands of Minnesotans have accessed the program. According to a new MHP analysis, more than 7,000 applications have been funded, amounting to more than $6 million in assistance since the start of the program.
At Minnesota Housing’s June board meeting, Commissioner Mary Tingerthal and agency staff discussed the tax exempt bonding authority, trends in the housing market, and updated the board on Agency news.
The meeting began with a discussion on local jurisdictions requesting a portion of the Agency’s tax exempt bond authority. For the first time in 10 years, there is not enough authority in the state-wide pool which opens an opportunity for the agency to review its unit cost containment policy. The meeting’s discussion then moved to recent trends concerning the loss of lower-rent affordable housing and the status of a special legislative session. Lastly, Commissioner Tingerthal updated the board on Moody’s recent ranking of the agency, summer research projects, changes to the down payment loan assistance program, and a brief report on the agency’s administrative budget.
The national report provided further proof of what we at MHP know so well: rural and tribal communities face particular challenges when it comes to affordable housing.
Last week, the Harvard Joint Center on Housing released its annual “State of the Nation's Housing” report and, as many in the housing world opined, there was good news and bad news. While the housing market has recovered by some metrics, affordability has plummeted by many other standards with a historic number of cost-burdened renters.
While urban centers often dominate the conversation, the report specifically calls out the challenges of rural and tribal areas. As the Housing Assistance Council, a national nonprofit that helps build homes and communities across rural America, noted: "The report details ongoing challenges facing non-metro and tribal areas, where poverty rates are higher than the national rate. Substandard housing is a particular problem in these areas — housing in non-metro areas is twice as likely to have incomplete plumbing, and housing in tribal areas is five times as likely to have incomplete plumbing. Meanwhile, federal housing assistance targeted at rural and tribal areas is limited and has seen a decrease in funding."
Since 2009, our Community Development team has been working extensively in rural and tribal communities, not just in Minnesota but across the country. What have they learned? When it comes to closing gaps in housing there are many common challenges.