New grant funds for three states boost rural development

Rural Capacity Building Grant award locationsAs the result of a recent federal grant, MHP staff are preparing for work in three rural US communities: Osage County, Oklahoma, the Lakes & Pines Region of E. Central Minnesota, and Bowman and Golden Valley counties in North Dakota. All three communities, which have undertaken extensive planning and strategizing, are poised to implement a wide variety of development projects under the grant.

“The grant will enable the communities to translate their plans into action and implement strategies that yield actual development and housing on the ground.” -Rosemary Fagrelius, Community Development Director at MHP

The work to be completed in northeastern Oklahoma will be in collaboration with The Pawhuska Indian Village, which plans to develop more energy-efficient and culturally relevant housing and create greater food sovereignty through community-supported agriculture.

The Lakes & Pines community, which was one of the Minnesota’s hardest hit regions in the recession, is planning to create more rental housing and to implement a single-family home improvement rehab program.

In light of rapid growth since the oil boom of the mid-2000s, Bowman and Golden Valley counties want to diversify the local economy outside the oil and gas industries to ensure the economic stability of the region. Local agencies plan to increase access to affordable homeownership, for the benefit of residents and the region.

ND Crew Camp Housing.
“Crew camp” housing scatters the northwestern North Dakota landscape as a temporary solution to population swells since the oil boom. Photo taken by Capacity Building Manager, Bill Vanderwall.

MHP has a history working with each of the recipient communities, which will help kick-start these new activities. MHP staff have worked with a number of agencies in Lakes & Pines through MHP’s Housing Institute, and in North Dakota through work with the groundbreaking Vision West initiative. Work with the Osage Nation builds on MHP’s longstanding partnerships within the American Indian community, most notably with members of the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. MHP staff look forward to the work ahead and the opportunity to continue supporting the growth and success of rural communities nationwide.

Housing Institute teams gather to “date” developers and court opportunity

Teams from MHP’s Greater MN regional community development training program, the Housing Institute, met early this month in Baxter, MN for their third gathering since their kick-off meeting last January. The meeting gave teams the chance to update each other on their projects’ progress, discuss federal policy with staff from Minnesota congressional offices, and “speed date” with local developers interested in helping projects move forward.

“Meeting with potential developers was definitely a highlight of the meeting. It helped educate team members about what a developer might be looking for if they were interested in our project.” – Debra Shaff, Executive Director of the Cloquet/Carlton HRA

With the teams now half of the way through the Institute training, the convening addressed more specific aspects of project development—how to leverage state resources like tax credits and other local sources, how to court and choose the right developer, and how to generate creative solutions to common problems.

Each color corresponds to a Housing Institute team and the cities/counties they represent.

The four current teams from Brainerd, Cloquet, East Central, and West Central have projects that represent a diverse range of development needs. Projects range from senior, workforce, and supportive housing development, downtown rehab, to the creation of a web-based housing resource directory.

After unexpected costs arose, the Grand Rapids team had to get creative with financing certain aspects of the supportive housing project. One of the solutions they came up with was to purchase the project’s kitchen cabinetry and other furnishings from MINNCOR, a company that builds high-quality, low-cost furniture while providing employment for people in prison. Contracting with MINNCOR has allowed the team to keep costs within range while maintaining quality.

One of the highlights of the gathering was hearing from a team of Institute alumni from Grand Rapids who discussed the progress of their supportive housing project, Beacon Hill. Construction of the project began this spring. Members of the team reflected on their experience in the Institute and shared some of the key things they’ve learned throughout the development process.

“The synposis provided by Grand Rapids was invaluable – the commitment, the dedication and trust they had in one another was incredible. Their efforts and energy will benefit their community for years.” – Debra Shaff

Teams will continue to meet individually over the coming months and will gather for the final, large-group convening in October to discuss project funding and financing in more depth.

A special thanks to the event speakers:

Emily Northey, Preservation Alliance
Skip Duchesneau, DW Jones Management Inc.
Jamie Thelen, Sand Companies, Inc. 
Tom Whiteside, Field Representative for Congressman Nolan. See a photo and brief caption of the event on Nolan’s blog.

The Housing Institute is a program of MHP and Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. The Institute is designed to foster regional collaboration and build the capacity of rural communities to meet local housing and community development needs. Read more about the Housing Institute here.

New Energy for Renewables in Affordable Housing

Renewable energy, especially solar, is of great interest to affordable housing developers from both a financial sustainability and mission perspective. However, effective practices and financing systems are still emerging in Minnesota.

In May, the MHP Investors Council hosted a breakfast discussion focusing on alternative energy sources for affordable housing. Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal moderated a thoughtful discussion about current projects, challenges in implementation, and the future of alternative energy in multifamily housing on both a statewide and national level. Panelists included Michael Bodaken from National Housing Trust, Gina Ciganik from Aeon, and Vihar Sheth from US Bancorp Community Development Corporation. More than 80 additional leaders representing the Investors Council and its guests, from all sectors of the affordable housing industry, participated in the event. 

Panelist perspectives

Michael Bodaken discussed the topic from both a national policy and on-the-ground practice perspective: As part of the Energy Efficiency for All coalition, he works with utilities to implement energy efficiency programs and improve energy investments in affordable housing. The opportunity is massive: By 2025, the coalition projects that utilities will spend $15.6 billion each year in energy efficiency investments in buildings (up from $7.2 billion in 2011). The National Housing Trust has made investments totaling $2.5 million in solar thermal and photovoltaic systems for six properties in its multifamily affordable housing portfolio; in the next five years alone, this is projected to save $1.2 million and prevent the release of 330 metric tons of greenhouse gases. Bodaken also noted that alternative energy is one of the biggest opportunities developers have to reduce costs and carbon output. The largest controllable variable operating cost in affordable housing is the cost of energy and utilities.  Reducing these costs through retrofits or the use of less costly renewables helps keep housing affordable over a longer period of time. 

Gina Ciganik gave context for the challenges of using alternative energy in Minnesota. On average, Minneapolis has a 130º swing in temperatures between summer and winter—greater than most other metropolitan areas in the U.S. Our systems are strained through sub-zero temperatures, snow, heat, and humidity. This extreme climate variation means that Minnesota housing developers may not be able to adopt models from projects located in milder climates. 

This graph (featured in Ciganik's presentation) shows the wide annual temperature fluctuation (130 degrees F) in Minneapolis compared to other metropolitan areas.

Ciganik emphasized that before considering photovoltaic (PV) or other renewable energy strategies, the first order of business is to create buildings that significantly conserve energy, and water.  Solar and other clean energy strategies are less effective in poorly designed buildings with high energy use intensities (EUI).

Vihar Sheth provided an investor’s perspective on the data needed to make the case to tax credit investors to underwrite renewable energy investments. In part, the challenge is in underwriting savings that accrue directly to tenants, rather than to owners. One innovative approach Sheth noted is to incorporate energy costs into rent (with no net effect on residents’ pocketbooks) so that the savings can be more directly underwritten at the project level and incorporated into lower cost projections for the building. 

Future prospects for alternative energy in Minnesota 

Ciganik’s comments were grounded in Aeon’s experience attempting, with partner Hope Community, to achieve net zero energy at their upcoming “The Rose” project at Franklin Avenue and Portland Avenue in Minneapolis.  The Rose is designed to be incredibly energy efficient—operating at just 20-30% of the regional average baseline for energy usage—and to use renewable sources as much as possible for the energy it does consume. After exploring a number of other options for incorporating renewable energy in the project, the developers are now pursuing a Community Solar Garden through a partnership with consulting group Eutectics. 

Ciganik also noted that resident engagement is critical in energy efficiency. Developments can be LEED certified and use alternative energy, but if tenants do not engage in sustainable practices, developments can still consume a lot of energy and may not reach efficiency goals. Energy efficiency can also be a selling point to residents and contribute to a sense of pride and community. 

Sheth said that states with the most alternative energy in housing right now have tax credits or some form of stable funding program in place. The panelists agreed that Minnesota’s current lottery system for solar incentives was not workable with affordable housing programs; community solar gardens provide a more predictable resource and seem to have more potential for serving this need.

In the open discussion that followed the panelists’ comments, many audience members had good news to share. Dominium highlighted its use of hydropower at its new Pillsbury A-Mill development, the St. Paul Public Housing Authority shared the news that its community solar garden initiative for high-rise properties is projected to save over $4 million for the agency, and Northcountry Cooperative Foundation is hoping to implement community solar to reduce costs for resident-owned manufactured home park cooperatives. 

To learn more about the MHP Investors Council, and the conversation described here, visit

Food for Thought: Racial Segregation and Affordable Housing

Since at least the 1940s, there have been lawsuits nationwide regarding racial segregation and affordable housing. A recent controversial report from the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota and a related fair-housing complaint have amplified the discussion in Minnesota.

To help readers consider the issues surrounding racial segregation and affordable housing, MHP has compiled a sampling of reports, studies, and articles from various perspectives on this issue, as well as some historical context. Look for more posts in the coming months, as MHP moves towards formulating a policy position to help guide this important public discussion.

The report in question asserts that the Twin Cities are more racially segregated than similar metropolitan areas due to affordable housing policy. The legal complaint, filed by three inner-ring suburbs, claims that the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency have not appropriately supported affordable housing development in predominantly white, wealthier suburbs.

A Sampling of Perspectives

Below is a collection of articles, reports, and studies representing different perspectives on addressing racial segregation and affordable housing today. This list is not comprehensive of all perspectives; rather, it is meant to provide “food for thought” as the Twin Cities and the nation continue to examine these issues.

  • Is Ending Segregation the Key to Ending Poverty? (Alana Semuels, The Atlantic) discusses the benefits of moving distressed households out of concentrated areas of poverty and racial segregation as well as the struggles of implementing successful program models on a national level.
  • Where the White People Live (Alana Semuels, The Atlantic) identifies racially concentrated areas of affluence, which can be considered alongside racially concentrated areas of poverty, using research from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

A Slice of Housing History

We also wanted to include a brief discussion regarding how our current situation cannot be divorced from the historical and social context.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, the practice of redlining made it difficult for persons of color to obtain home loans, maintaining racial segregation throughout neighborhoods. When neighborhoods began to integrate, “block-busting” occurred; realtors would scare white homeowners into selling their homes, which they would in turn market to households of color at higher costs, creating cost burden for thousands of families and promoting racial segregation. Protests directed at homeowners of color in newly integrating neighborhoods also occurred to intimidate families of color from moving in or to encourage them to move out, with one example being Arthur and Edith Lee in South Minneapolis.

This 1935 “Natural Areas” planning map of downtown St. Paul is just one example of how segregation has historically informed the city planning process. The map is overlaid with today’s freeways and the Metro Green Line.

Meanwhile, between the 1950s and the 1980s, the practice of city administrators, planners, and council members in approving and vetoing the location of low income public housing projects led to many being located in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. By the late 1980s/early 1990s, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and Housing Opportunities of People Everywhere (HOPE VI), were created in part to repair the state of low income housing and address concentrated poverty. As the perspectives above demonstrate, there have been some degree of successes with these programs, but not without controversy over the beneficiaries, the implementation, the measurement of success, and the program structure.

(More on the history of housing and racial segregation can be read here.)

Thoughtful Debate

At MHP, we very much want to see more equal and equitable housing options for communities of color. Knowing how important this topic is, understanding the nuances of the varying positions is essential. As this sampling of perspectives suggests, there remains room for healthy debate and creativity in considering action and solutions.

Revisiting 25 years of MHP

On February 12, MHP celebrated its 25th year with an anniversary party at the Schmidt Artist Lofts. The event was a chance to celebrate our many partners and an opportunity for everyone to network and enjoy themselves. People caught up with old friends, made new ones, and shared ideas about how we can all continue to meet housing and community needs.

Guests watch videos shown at the 25th Anniversary Celebration.

Aside from the networking and food and beverages, people gathered for a few short reflections on MHP’s work over the years. MHP’s Board Chair, Paul Sween of Dominium, thanked MHP’s partners and supporters.

Sue Haigh, CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and former chair of the Met Council, served as MHP’s board chair in the 2000s. She reminded the crowd that MHP has been instrumental in starting up several networks over the years. Among them was Habitat Minnesota, which now connects Habitat affiliates throughout the state. And in the last few years, the Homes for All alliance has corralled affordable housing advocates to make a shared ask of the state legislature. Minnesota won a historic $100 million in bonding for affordable housing in 2014 as a result.

Rep. Keith Ellison, who could not join in person, sent a video congratulating MHP on its years of advocacy, including our part in the recent national success of freeing up funds for the National Housing Trust Fund. “When people don’t have a solid, stable place to live, it’s harder for students to study, harder for people to meet their families, harder to get a job, harder to stay healthy,” said Ellison. “I know that’s why you’re dedicated to ensuring that we can house Minnesotans of all types, but mostly the very poor.”

Visionary leader Nick Tilsen of the Thunder Valley CDC on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota added by video that through technical assistance over the past several years, MHP has “truly invested into us to be able to build our organizations and to build our capacity.” Tilsen explained that the Thunder Valley CDC is undertaking multi-phase housing and infrastructure developments to build a sustainable future without poverty for the people on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

MHP’s executive director and founder, Chip Halbach, reflected on the fact that MHP was founded in a time of rising rents, rising homelessness and the need for a change in how we approach housing. Though many of the trends persist, we have also accomplished so much along the way, in both policy and capacity building, he added. Halbach shared a map of the places MHP has worked the last few years in building capacity.

MHP’s capacity building locations, 2009-2014

Sydney Dexter of the Minneapolis HUD office, surprised Chip with a plaque honoring his years of commitment to affordable housing.

Last but certainly not least, for affordable housing aficionados, the opportunity to take a guide tours of the attractive Artist Lofts was hard to pass up. All the artist loft apartments are affordable, being funded by historic and low-income housing tax credits and other sources. We all enjoyed seeing amenities like sound rooms for music practice and art and dance studios for visual artists and dancers.

May this event kick of 25 more years of improving the conditions of home and community in Minnesota and beyond!

The people behind development – an Itasca County housing team makes Beacon Hill a reality

When reporting on affordable housing development, traditional media outlets often miss the opportunity to report the “story behind the story”— the narrative of the people who make development possible. MHP’s Impact Spotlight looks beyond the likely narrative of “units created” and “statistics show” to the stories of collaboration that make affordable housing happen.

MHP’s newest Impact Spotlight, released this week, features a team in Grand Rapids, Minn. and the collaborative inspiration behind Beacon Hill, a supportive housing development set to break ground in spring 2015. This development will fill a large regional gap in meeting the needs of those barred from traditional housing due to criminal records, substance abuse histories, or struggles with mental health issues.

The team, composed of representatives from five local agencies, faced many challenges along the way: how to balance individual and shared visions for the project, how to court and partner with developers, and how to navigate a complicated process of funding. With the support of training through the Housing Institute and the backing of key partners, the team was able to make the dream of Beacon Hill a reality.

For many on the team, Beacon Hill represents one of the most rewarding projects of their careers and one of the most effective collaborations of their professional experience.

“The Itasca County Institute Team has been the best example of a true collaborative that I have experienced in my career. The commitment, the respect, and dedication has been a remarkable experience,” said Lorna Mix, Community Support Program Director at Northland Counseling Center.

Read the Spotlight to learn more about the team’s journey and to find out how they hope to inspire others with their story.

Toward Culturally Sensitive Housing

A guest blog post by Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Interior Design, University of Minnesota

Anyone who cooks from scratch knows the implications of that daily activity on kitchen spaces, the cook, and the family: the mess that has to be cleaned, the amount of food, utensils, and other items that have to be stored, the steam and smells generated that can overtake the rest of the house. At the same time, ending the day with a delicious meal accompanied by lively family conversations around the table can be priceless. It fosters connections with family members, transfers healthy eating habits to the younger generations, and helps craft meaning and memories. The question that confronts designers and planners of housing is how can peoples’ efforts to create meaning in their lives be supported at a time when we all speak, cook, eat, sleep, socialize, pray, dress, etc. in so many different ways?

Designers are often asked to design houses that can be the home for a specific family in the city or the countryside, houses that a developer can duplicate in a suburb, or houses for families in public assistance, such as affordable housing. In many of these cases, designers are not dealing with a specific client who will relate that family’s needs and priorities to them. Instead, they often have to respond to market trends or their own assumptions of what a house should look like. This approach can be problematic, particularly since in the past few decades, the demographic landscape of Minnesota has changed and many new immigrant groups have joined long-standing minority groups in calling Minnesota home.

Culturally sensitive housing is one way by which designers, planners, developers, and policy makers can begin to work toward housing that meets the needs of everyone. Culturally sensitive housing is housing that accommodates diverse ways of living. As such, culturally sensitive housing is not culturally-specific housing; culturally-specific housing stereotypes what a “way of life” entails, positioning everyone who calls themselves Hmong, Somali, Mexican, or American as having one way of life—a “Hmong” way of life, a “Somali” way of life, an “American” way of life, etc. Instead, culturally sensitive housing acknowledges the many ways to belong, the multiple ways by which one can be a Hmong, Somali, Mexican, or American and everything in between. Therefore, culturally sensitive designs are adaptable and flexible.

Housing characteristics, such as ventilation systems, window types, spatial layouts, and material selections can impact residents’ ability to practice traditions that foster health and well-being. Let’s take for example the activities of cooking nutritious foods in a safe manner and eating together as a family:

  • dining area too smallLack of appropriate ventilation to exhaust the odors and particulates from oils and spices used in cooking as well as a kitchen that is not sized to prepare food for large numbers of people prompted this family to use the basement as a cooking area. Cooking with propane gas however, is neither safe nor comfortable.
  • Similarly, most apartments have open-plan kitchens that are open to other spaces in a home, including the living areas. Cooking in open kitchens can be uncomfortable and dangerous, for example, when a veiled Muslim woman has to be covered to cook in the presence of male visitors.
  • Without adequate space to eat informally as a family (pictured right), some people choose to eat alone, which diminishes the many benefits of eating together, such as nurturing healthy nutritional habits and strong family relationships.

guestblogpost2Designers who are cognizant of diverse uses of home spaces can implement culturally sensitive design solutions. In Ripley Gardens in Minneapolis, affordable housing developer Aeon designed kitchens that can be easily adjusted to enable a Muslim woman to cook without wearing her veil and without being seen (pictured left). A curtain could be hung to screen the kitchen and even the dining area from the living area of the home, the space where men would likely socialize. Such an alteration is low cost as it does not involve having to move the sink or the stove or even building walls. In this design, a veiled woman would also be able to access the bedrooms and bathroom without having to pass by the living area, easing her life and caretaking responsibilities.

Because of their emphasis on diversity, adaptability, and flexibility, culturally sensitive housing designs have economic and environmental benefits: they have a greater appeal to a larger market share, can be occupied for longer periods of time, and can minimize environmentally and financially costly renovations, conserving resources in the process. With housing choices that respond to diverse ways of living, Minnesota can be more attractive to a broader segment of the population, strengthening the region’s cultural and economic vitality and positioning Minnesota’s global competitiveness. Furthermore, although Minnesota is one of the healthiest states in the nation, it has some of the greatest disparities in health status and incidence of chronic disease between Populations of Color / American Indians and Whites. Occurrences of physical health concerns, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease as well as mental health inequalities, abound among Minnesota’s minority and immigrant groups. By supporting diverse ways of living, culturally sensitive housing can play a role in alleviating some of these disparities.

Part of the challenge in working toward culturally sensitive housing is “unlearning” the standard and typical approach to
planning a residential project. Designers and planners who recognize the many ways by which people chose to live their lives can devote time and energy to revisiting guidelines and regulations for cultural sensitivity. Building synergies among all stakeholders is another integral part of the process, and more areas of collaboration and networking as well as sharing of best practices should be nurtured. One thing is certain: housing that supports various ways of living can facilitate healthy lifestyles and improve the health and well-being of everyone in our communities.

Tasoulla Hadjiyanni is an Associate Professor in Interior Design at the University of Minnesota. Her work includes exploring how the design of interior spaces intersects with culture and identity through the experiences of new immigrant and minority groups in Minnesota. Her approach to culturally sensitive housing designs has appeared in leading journals and conferences.

MHP Launches 2013 Housing Institute: Facilitates Regional Collaborations & Builds Capacity of Greater MN Communities

The Minnesota Housing Partnership recently launched our 2013-2014 Housing Institute for Greater Minnesota. The Housing Institute fosters regional collaborations and builds the capacity of communities to meet housing needs in rural Minnesota.  This year’s Housing Institute includes teams from Itasca County, Thief River Falls, and Roseau County.  Each team will work on a housing project/program over the next twelve months.

The Housing Institute is an opportunity for housing leaders to come together to share their experiences, learn best practices in housing and community development, and develop creative solutions to bring quality affordable housing to their community.  Quarterly training sessions and one-on-one technical assistance helps teams strengthen their skills to make their project a reality. The Housing Institute for Greater Minnesota is a project of the Minnesota Housing Partnership and Greater Minnesota Housing Fund.

Meet the 2013-2014 Housing Institute Teams

 Roseau County Team

Roseau Co HI Team



Economic growth in Roseau County has caused a shortage of housing, making it difficult for businesses to recruit employees to the area.  In 2012, a local housing study identified the need for additional homeownership and rental housing opportunities within the region.  The team hopes to develop a mix of housing options; ensuring workers at every pay level have access to affordable homes.

Team Members Include:

  • Todd Peterson, City of Roseau
  • Pam Monsrud, City of Badger
  • Jack Swanson, Roseau County Commissioner
  • Anita Locken, City of Greenbush
  • Glenda Phillipe, Roseau County Commissioner
  • Jeff Fagerstrom, Northwest Minnesota Housing Cooperative
  • Lee Meier, Northwest Multi-County HRA

Thief River Falls Team

Thief River Falls HI Team



Like in Roseau, economic growth in Thief River Falls has caused a shortage of housing, making it difficult for businesses to recruit employees to the area. In 2011, a local housing study identified the need for additional homeownership and rental housing opportunities in Thief River Falls.  The team hopes to develop the skills to support housing development in Thief River Falls and implement a communication strategy that will engage the community in the process.

Team Members Include:

  • Michael Moore, City of Thief River Falls
  • Dale Hahn, Thief River Falls City Council
  • Maryel Anderson, Anderson Realty
  • Kermit Genereux, Genereux Realty
  • Leroy Flickinger, LV Contracting
  • Steve Crittenden, Northland Community & Technical College
  • Catherine Johnson, Inter-County Community Council
  • Jeff Fagerstrom, Northwest Minnesota Housing Cooperative (Alternate)

Itasca County Team

Itasca Co HI Team



There is a growing need for affordable housing Itasca County. The changing demographics in the region and the rise of homelessness have caused a shortage of affordable housing options.   In addition, much of the current housing stock is in need of repairs.   The Itasca County team hopes to collaborate on a project that will help homeless individuals and families access stable housing. Audrey Moen, Housing Manager at Northland Counseling Center and Itasca County Team member noted “We hope that by collaborating we will be able to develop permanent, supportive housing, creating an environment that fosters safe, affordable housing that is well integrated in the community.”

Team Members Include:

  • Diane Larson, Itasca County HRA
  • Amanda MacDonnell, Itasca County HRA
  • Lorna Mix, Northland Counseling Center
  • Audrey Moen, Northland Counseling Center
  • Dana Herschbach, Kootasca Community Action
  • Victor Moen, Minnesota Department of Corrections
  • Jason Anderson, Minnesota Department of Corrections (Alternate)
  • Sherry  Shadley, Grace House
  • Ami Bolster, Grace House (Alternate)

In the News: Renter Affordability Out of Reach in MN

This week the annual Out of Reach Report jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and in Minnesota MHP, hit the airwaves all over Minnesota, placing the issue of affordability for renters in the spotlight. The report’s release was well-timed, given federal and state budget negotiations for housing programs.

According to the report released on Monday, in 2011 a Minnesota family must have 2.2 minimum wage earners working full-time – or one person working 87 hours per week at minimum wage – to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota.  Of the 12 states in the Midwest, Minnesota ranks the worst for rental affordability among minimum wage workers.

In order to afford the rent and utilities for a safe and modest 2-bedroom apartment in the private housing market, a Minnesota worker must earn $15.79 per hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.  By contrast, the typical renter in Minnesota earns $11.61 per hour, and a minimum wage earner makes only $7.25 per hour.

Shortly after MHP’s press release was issued on Monday, the Star Tribune, MPR, WCCO, and the Public News Service (picked up by Clear Channel) produced stories featuring the report and the struggles of renters to afford housing (see MHP in the Media for links to each.)

Much to the delight of housing advocates, the story hit the television news, too. In the Metro, a KARE 11 story on kare11Wednesday looked at the rental market and the struggles of Minnesotans unable to afford their rent. Catholic Charities housing advocate Katie Tuione of Catholic Charities, and 22-year-old Luvrahsheda Robinson, who earns $600 in income monthly, but also pays $600 in rent, both helped explain the issues.fox_9

On Thursday, MHP’s executive director Chip Halbach made an appearance on Fox 9 on Thursday for the 11:00 news to discuss some of the reasons for the high rents in Minnesota. He also appealed to the Governor and the Legislature to prioritize decent affordable housing for Minnesotans when considering the state’s budget.

northlandsnewscenterMeanwhile, in Greater Minnesota, as Minnesota Housing hosted its Regional Housing Dialogue in the northeast, Northland’s NewsCenter did a television story on the need to fund affordable housing programs on the Iron Range, without relying on trust fund money set aside for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), as proposed earlier this session. In this segment, Tony Sertich, Commissioner of the IRRRB and a former legislator, reiterated the need to fund housing.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got available and affordable housing for workers and businesses that are growing on the Range,” Sertich said.

Out of Reach, which can be found at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website at includes data on rental housing affordability for every state, county, and metro area in the country.

Some additional facts about Minnesota rental affordability from Out of Reach 2011

  • The least affordable counties for renters in Minnesota, as determined by the estimated percentage of renters unable to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, given their earnings, are as follows:

Winona County (68% unable to afford)
Aitkin County (67%)
Mille Lacs County (67%)
Big Stone County (65%)
Grant County (63%)
Faribault County (62%)
Wadena County (62%)
Chisago County (62%)

    • The counties with the highest increase in rents since 2000 are outside of the Twin Cities Metro, particularly in southwest Minnesota.  Rents in Martin, Faribault, Cottonwood, Pipestone, Murray, Rock, Watonwan and Jackson Counties have increased by 56% or more since 2000, compared to 32% statewide since 2000.
  • The most expensive area to be a renter continues to be the Twin Cities metro area, where a modest two-bedroom apartment requires a full-time worker to earn $17.77 per hour year-round.

2011 County Profiles Released

Whether by choice or necessity, more and more people are renting across Minnesota. By 2010, 27% of the state’s households rented their homes, up significantly from mid-decade, according to MHP’s 2011 County Profiles, just released today. What’s more, Hennepin and Ramsey counties are by no means the only counties where renting is important.

county_profiles_thumb11The County Profiles show that only two of the top ten counties with the highest rental rates in Minnesota are located in the Twin Cities metro.

Ramsey (39% renter households) and Hennepin (36%) top the list, but are followed closely by Blue Earth (35%), Lyon (34%) and Benton (31%) in Greater Minnesota. (See the full Top Ten list.)

Over the course of the decade from 2000 to 2010, all ten of the counties with the largest increase in the percentage of renter households were outside of the metro area. Mahnomen, Big Stone, Mower, and Beltrami counties head up this list.

MHP’s County Profiles pull together housing data for each of Minnesota’s 87 counties—including cost and affordability for owners and renters, changes in home prices, foreclosures, homelessness, and unemployment.*

Findings include:

  • Rising rents and falling incomes leave Minnesota renters in limbo, especially in a fragile economy. From 2000 to 2011, 80 of 87 Minnesota counties saw increases in rental costs, after adjusting for inflation. Based on the best available data, renter incomes decreased 17% between 1999 and 2009 statewide.
  • In 25 counties, renting a modest two-bedroom apartment requires a higher income than buying a median priced home, assuming a 10% down payment and a 30-year fixed mortgage.
  • Affordability is a critical concern for the state’s expanding rental population. Nearly half of the state’s renters paid more than they should for housing in 2009, by HUD’s affordability standards.
  • The median home sales price ranged from a low of $40,500 in Traverse County in western Minnesota to a high of $247,500 in Carver County in the metro area in 2009-10.
  • From 2006 to 2010, 74 counties (85% of counties) experienced decreases in the median home sales price, after adjusting for inflation. However, over the entire decade through 2010, 60 counties (69%) actually experienced increases in the median price.

Check out your county profile and the Top Ten lists. Do you see any surprises? Also, we welcome you to share ideas about how you plan to use the County Profiles this coming year.