Investing in Housing to Strengthen Our Community
Long-term investments help address access to affordable housing.
Housing is the foundation for stable families and vibrant communities, which is why we have been investing in housing and addressing homelessness for many years. Housing and shelter help us to sustain our health, ability to work and connection to our community.
Creating access to affordable housing and addressing homelessness are complicated issues, and all sectors need to rise to the challenge. We have seen notable progress through collaboration and cooperation, but much more needs to be done.
At the Foundation, we are focused on three key strategies:
- Address the most urgent needs by supporting shelter, supportive services and developing capacity of housing organizations
- Increase production of affordable housing
- Provide creative financing tools to preserve affordability, including naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH)
All three require cooperation across all sectors of the community — from philanthropy and nonprofit organizations, to corporations and state and local governments.
At the Foundation, we’ve supported partnerships that cross sectors and have granted to organizations like Project for Pride in Living (PPL), Habitat for Humanity, Model Cities and CommonBond Communities to help us achieve our vision of a just and vibrant Minnesota where all people and communities thrive.
Addressing the Most Urgent Needs
When the Walz-Flanagan administration launched the Minnesota Winter Homeless Initiative in December 2019, we responded by setting up the Minnesota Homeless Fund. Partnering with the Pohlad Foundation, the Schulze Foundation and others, the fund assembles corporate donors and public entities to provide flexible statewide funding.
Similarly, we have supported Ramsey County’s Winter Safe Space initiative to provide additional shelter, outreach capacity and services though organizations like Model Cities. These efforts respond to the urgency of the situation, but long-term solutions are necessary.
Developing Affordable Units
Many communities simply need more affordable housing.
In 2017, the Saint Paul City Council adopted the Ford Site Master Plan, which was the culmination of a decade of planning, and provided a framework to guide mixed-use redevelopment of the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in the Highland Park neighborhood. The key players, Ryan Companies, Project for Pride in Living (PPL) and CommonBond Communities committed to the development of 726 units of affordable housing over 16 years.
In December 2019, we approved a request from PPL for $750,000 in program related investments (PRI) for housing on the Ford site redevelopment. This will directly support the development of 130 new affordable units.
Innovative Financing Tools
Beyond traditional grantmaking, we are also using our assets in new ways.
In 2019, we expanded our relationship with Aeon, an established affordable housing organization, by providing a loan guarantee of $1.125 million to Sunrise Banks and its Community Development Corporation (CDC). The idea is to strategically buy NOAH units through Sunrise Banks while they are still affordable, and at the end of the project timeframe, refinance them to Aeon.
Our project partners include The Minneapolis Foundation, Frey Foundation, the City of Saint Paul and the City of Minneapolis. The guaranty pool totaled $6.75 million.
Supporting Community Initiatives
The Foundation consistently seeks out opportunities to support projects that apply creative solutions to the issues connected to housing.
When Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III developed the Housing Trust Fund to create, preserve and protect housing affordability for residents, we looked for ways to take part.
We supported the City of Saint Paul’s Rent Supplement Pilot (a program of the Housing Trust Fund), which partners with Saint Paul Public Schools to provide families with a $300 monthly rent supplement and supportive services for three years. Eligible, low-income families that have a Pre-K to 3rd grade student enrolled in a participating school can benefit from the sustained stability this program will provide.
Affordable Housing Is a Long-term Investment in Our Communities
We believe that to address the housing crisis, we need to apply all the tools we have available to sustain a variety of housing initiatives. Supporting a healthy housing environment is one way to establish a solid foundation on which to build the strength of our communities.