Affordable Housing Facts

Housing: The bedrock for stable families and a healthy region

Stable, affordable housing is essential for people to work productively, for their children to learn, and for families and communities to thrive. Housing is affordable when a family with a moderate or low income pays no more than 30-40% of its monthly income for housing. 

Increasingly, housing is not affordable for many Twin Cities metro area working families. This lack of affordable housing for people of all ages and incomes causes families stress, dampens productivity and stifles job growth. 

The Metropolitan Council recognizes that affordable, durable and well-maintained housing is important to a community’s tax base, livability and business climate, as well as to the health of the region as a whole. The Council creates affordable housing opportunities in the region through several programs and initiatives.

Creating choices with housing vouchers 

photo of a habitat for humanity houseThe Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (Metro HRA) administers several rental assistance programs, the largest being the federal Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program. Metro HRA serves communities throughout Anoka, Carver, and most of suburban Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. Metro HRA also administers other rental subsidy programs designed for special populations such as veterans, homeless people and people with disabilities. In total, Metro HRA programs use the existing private rental market to provide decent, safe, sanitary and affordable housing for about 7,200 households monthly. 

Eligible households pay 30% to 40% of their incomes for rent, and Metro HRA pays the remainder directly to the landlord, within established rent limits. The 2,200 participating private property owners are guaranteed a stable source of rental income. This injects more than $60 million of federal and state funds annually into the regional economy. The Metro HRA’s service area includes nearly 100 cities, thus avoiding a concentration of assisted housing. All housing units in the program are inspected annually by HRA staff.

Metro HRA has a mobility counseling program, Community Choice, to assist voucher holders to find housing outside of concentrated areas of poverty and enjoy success in their new neighborhoods. The program includes landlord recruitment, participant recruitment, pre-move counseling, housing search assistance, and post-move counseling.

Scattered-site program offers affordable housing in suburbs

The Council owns 150 units of scattered-site housing located in 11 cities in suburban Anoka, Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. The Family Affordable Housing Program (FAHP) gives families with low incomes additional opportunities to live in neighborhoods outside areas with high levels of poverty. The FAHP units, with their Section 8 project-based rental subsidy, are made available to families on the waiting list. 

A private firm is responsible for day-to-day property management services.

Council determines affordable housing needs

Communities 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. The Council determines the overall need and then allocates shares based on each community's forecasted household growth. Additional factors the Council considers in allocating the affordable housing need to communities 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 zoning the amount of land needed to accommodate both its overall forecasted growth and its share of the region’s affordable housing need.

Grants support community efforts

photo of two people walking on the sidewalk outside of a multi-unit townhouse rowThe Council, through the Livable Communities Act grant program, makes grants to communities to help create and preserve affordable rental and ownership housing.

One grant account, the Local Housing Incentives Account, provides gap financing to create new affordable housing or rehabilitate existing units. From 1996 through the 2017 funding cycle, the Council awarded $37.8 million in grants (193 grants to 55 communities). The grants leveraged nearly $900 million in private and other public funds to provide more than 7,700 new and rehabilitated affordable rental units, and more than 1,800 new and rehabilitated ownership units.

Two other programsthe Tax Base Revitalization Account and the Livable Communities Demonstration Accountalso fund projects that often have an affordable housing component. Since 1996, these accounts, together with their counterpart transit-oriented development grant awards, have helped to create or rehabilitate well over 11,000 affordable housing units.