Minneapolis workforce housing forum highlights innovative housing solutions - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Minneapolis workforce housing forum highlights innovative housing solutions

On July 12, MPC participated in Bring Workers Home Minneapolis, the second of four regional workforce housing events, which brought together a range of housing advocates, realtors, and others in the field to explore housing challenges and hear innovative solutions. The event featured several great employer-assisted housing (EAH) models, whose stories illustrate the versatility and value of EAH.

Mayo Clinic

Warren Hanson, president and CEO, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, described the key role employers across Minnesota have played in supporting housing development. One example he cited was the Mayo Clinic, located in Rochester, Minn. Mayo Clinic, recognizing the need for a greater supply of workforce housing, challenged the broader business and civic community to invest in new housing. The Mayo Clinic provided $5 million, and the chamber, local businesses, and other local partners invested another $7 million. To ensure long-term affordability, the for-sale homes were created as part of a community land trust.

Bremer Bank

Bremer Bank, which operates in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, offers both a homeownership and rental EAH benefit to employees. Employees can receive a loan of $5,000 to assist with a home purchase or rental assistance of up to two-thirds of a renter’s upfront costs (for instance, security deposit plus first month’s rent). In each case, the assistance is forgiven over five years, provided the employee remains with the bank.  Since 2008, more than 55 employees have bought homes with Bremer Bank’s assistance.

The City of St. Louis Park

Adjacent to Minneapolis with population 50,000, the City of St. Louis Park has a “Live Where You Work” program to encourage local workers to live in the community. The city offers $2,500 to help local workers buy a home in town and an additional $1,000 to purchase a vacant or foreclosed home. Since rolling out the program about a year ago, eight buyers have used the program, and four of the homes were foreclosures, illustrating EAH’s benefit as a community redevelopment tool.

Loyola University Chicago

The university’s EAH program helps employees live close to work or near the El, Chicago’s elevated train that connects Loyola’s lakefront campuses in the Loop and on the North Side. Program goals include improving employee quality of life by facilitating homeownership and reducing commutes, and increasing employee involvement in campus life by living nearby. The university also has found EAH is a key component of its sustainability plan. With 40 percent of the university’s carbon footprint related to transportation, the EAH program helps reduce emissions. View Community Relations Director Jennifer Clark’s presentation for more details on the program.

Select Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s leading provider of information and guidance to prospective homebuyers has been an EAH pioneer for many years, working with Milwaukee employers to help employees own a home. Executive Director Ray Schmidt shared recent data: In 2009, Milwaukee-area employees invested $246,000 to help 85 employees purchase homes. That private investment leveraged another $294,000 in additional incentives, leading to $11 million in home sales. A 2008 analysis of Aurora Healthcare (a Milwaukee employer participating in Select Milwaukee’s program), found EAH participants are higher performing and stay with the company longer. Aurora is featured in a new EAH video created by WHEDA in partnership with the Wisconsin Realtors Association. WHEDA and WRA created the video and web site with funding from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) through the Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grants. NAR is inviting funding proposals from state Realtor associations that have not yet applied.                         

The Bring Workers Home forum was hosted by the National Housing Conference and the National Association of Realtors, as well as local partners: Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, WHEDA, the McKnight Foundation, and Urban Land Institute – Minnesota. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, MPC, and International Economic Development Council also serve on the national planning committee.

Upcoming Bring Workers Home events will take place in Austin, Tex., on Aug. 12, and in Honolulu on Oct. 12. More information is available here.


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