On Wednesday, May 22, MCCD members and supporters gathered for the first in a series of Community Development (CD) Conversations in 2019 to celebrate MCCD’s 30th anniversary. MCCD has long believed in addressing stability across the full affordable housing continuum. For this CD conversation, we took the opportunity to discuss how the conversation around tools for the full continuum have evolved: What have been some of the key successes in the field? And what can we, as housing developers, advocates, and residents, do better in the future to provide housing stability in our community?
Minneapolis Council Member Jeremiah Ellison (Ward 5) moderated a discussion panel that included:
- Shannon Smith Jones, Hope Community;
- Ericka Frye, Frogtown homeowner and NeighboWorks Home Partners program participant
- Jason Peterson, NeighborWorks Home Partners
Council Member Ellison started by sharing some updates from Minneapolis City Hall, where the Council and City staff are considering how to continue responding to the City’s affordable housing crisis after a historic $40M investment in the 2019 budget. He discussed that Council Members and staff are considering ways sustain the $40M of one-time funds allocated to affordable housing for the 2019 budget, acknowledging that $40M is a “drop in the bucket” towards solving the City’s affordable housing challenges. Work also continues on a permanent inclusionary zoning policy, and renter protection policies including limited lookback for criminal, credit, and housing histories, and a cap on deposits.
As we moved into the panel discussion, the panelists described what home means to them. We heard about Shannon’s vision that “what I have, everyone should have,” as she grew up and realized not everyone has the benefits of stable, healthy housing. Ericka shared her family’s journey from renting to homeownership, and how her home represents investment and security to provide different opportunities for their two daughters. She mentioned her networking, research, and connecting with agencies like NeighborWorks Home Partners helped her family on their path. Jason discussed that for his family, home is where his children feel safe and accepted, and where you can always return and feel a sense of belonging.
Panelists discussed their role in the housing continuum and what tools they think can have the most impact. Ericka discussed how she considers one of her responsibilities to share the knowledge she has gained in her home buying process, and the crucial nature of our personal and neighborhood networks in making those connections, and advocating for more resources so that others may access opportunities. Jason and Shannon discussed each of their organization’s holistic approaches, emphasizing the importance having a range of tools and approaches that are responsive to community needs to preserve and create affordable rental and homeownership opportunities. Shannon shared that Hope Community’s focus has continued to evolve as they engage with and listen to community, making connections between neighbors and issues, and identifying trends that have the potential to displace neighbors—i.e. currently rising rents as the near-downtown neighborhood becomes more attractive to renters who might have previously dismissed housing choices along Franklin & Portland Avenues. Jason discussed that the housing challenges core cities face, such as aging housing stock and rapidly-increasing home construction costs, are impacting low- and moderate-wealth households in first-ring suburbs as well.
While the housing challenges for our communities are significant, each panelist offered up their strategies for future work to ensure everyone can access housing that allows their family to thrive. For Shannon and Hope Community, their deep, ongoing work with neighbors focuses on organizing and building relationships, including through community art and gardens, and “connecting neighbors so we don’t criminalize each other.” Shannon also shared that Hope is exploring owner-occupied land trusts to help with long-term impact for affordability, and continuing the work of connecting residents, community groups and organizations, and elected officials and other decision makers. Home rehabilitation and repair work will continue to be a focus for NeighborWorks Home Partners, both in core cities and suburban communities, to leverage resources further than solely focusing on single family new home construction. Ericka left us with some parting words for how community developers can be better partners to community: making sure to get the word out to real people in the community, who can help spread awareness about programs and resources that can have a major impact on individuals, families, and entire neighborhoods and communities. It was a critical reminder that while we can advocate for increased resources and improved programs, if our efforts aren’t reaching real people, the strength of the housing continuum will be compromised.