Affordable Housing Facts

Housing: The bedrock for stable families and a healthy region
Quality affordable homes are important to a community's tax base, livability, and business climate, and to the vitality of the region. 

A stable, safe home is essential for people to work productively, stay healthy, and for children to learn. Quality homes must be within reach for all people if our region is going to grow and thrive. Our zip codes should not determine our success in life.

The Metropolitan Council's vision is a prosperous, sustainable and equitable region that provides viable transportation, recreation and housing options for all the region's residents – regardless of age, income, race or ability.

What makes a home affordable? 

photo of a habitat for humanity houseWhen the Council and local governments plan for affordable housing, they are most often focused on households with incomes well below the area median income. That’s because increasingly – both here in the Twin Cities region and nationwide – the private market alone has proven insufficient to provide enough housing for these households.

  • Low income: A household that earns 80% of area median income or less, relative to household size. This would include a family of four with a gross income of $75,500 or less.
  • AffordableWhen a household with a low income pays no more than 30% of its gross income for housing costs, including basic utilities.

Creating and preserving affordable housing takes many partners 

Local governments, developers, bankers, community development organizations, builders and others all help make housing possible. The Council is a partner and, under state law, has several roles in working towards a future with enough quality affordable housing in the Twin Cities region:

  • We provide data and analysis to help housing partners understand regional housing trends, both current and forecasted.
  • We define the local government shares of the regional need for low- and moderate-income housing.
  • We review local comprehensive plans to ensure local governments are planning an adequate supply of land to meet their need for affordable housing.
  • We provide technical assistance to local governments, for example, connecting cities with developers, to expand their supply of affordable housing.
  • We fund housing development through the Livable Communities Act programs.
  • We provide incentives for housing performance.
  • We assist 7,200 households with rent payments to landlords in Anoka, Carver, and most of suburban Hennepin and Ramsey counties through the federal Housing Choice Voucher program.
  • We integrate housing with the Council's work in regional parks, transportation, and water resources.
  • We collaborate with and convene partners and stakeholders to expand the regional housing dialogue.

Working with local governments to plan for housing

Local governments in the seven-county metro area served by regional or municipal wastewater treatment are required by state law to plan to meet their local share of the region’s overall projected need for low- and moderate-income housing. We determine the overall need and then allocate shares based on each community's forecasted household growth. Additional factors the Council considers in allocating the affordable housing need include ratio of low-income jobs to low-wage workers and the current stock of affordable housing in the community.

Each community is responsible for identifying and guiding the amount of land needed to accommodate both its overall forecasted growth and its share of the region’s affordable housing need.

Affordable Housing Measures: Need, Goals and Scores

Grants help local governments create, preserve affordable housing

The Livable Communities Act provides funding for community investment that revitalizes economies, links different land uses and transportation, and creates and preserves affordable housing.
  • Since 1996, Council grants to more than 60 local governments have helped create or rehabilitate nearly 23,600 affordable housing units.

Losing ground on affordable housing

photo of two people walking on the sidewalk outside of a multi-unit townhouse rowWhile significant efforts have been made to increase affordable housing opportunities, the region is not keeping up with the need for housing affordable to households with low incomes. Building new housing is expensive and requires complex packages of financing and grants to achieve.

  • While nearly 9,000 affordable units were added to the region's housing stock between 2011 and 2017, that's far below the 52,570 affordable units needed between 2011 and 2020 to keep pace with household growth.
  • Losses of affordable units are more difficult to track and measure than production. However, known or estimated losses in even narrow segments of the affordable housing market show that the region has likely lost more affordable units than it has produced since 2011.

The Council, through the roles summarized above, is working hard to reverse this trend. Many state and local partners are also strengthening efforts to address the affordable housing shortfall. If we continue to work together we can protect and improve the region's job stability, health outcomes, school outcomes, and overall livability. We all benefit when all residents in our communities live in affordable, quality homes.

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