Demographic changes must be accompanied by housing choice. “We’re seeing a lot of change in terms of the types of housing individuals are choosing, and so historically we’ve been very much focused on the traditional detached single family owner occupied, and we’re seeing a lot more…multi-family, more rental and a lot of different housing choices,” says Tim Gladhill, Director of Community Development. The City has embraced a new type of single family development, such as Riverstone Villas, with smaller lots sizes (⅛ acre versus the traditional ¼ acre) and amenities, including easy access to open space, parks, and trails as well as access to Hwy 10, which connects to downtown Minneapolis. Benefiting from association maintenance, this development supports aging-in-place.

Creating Housing Choice

Ramsey, Minnesota

Seasons Townhomes is a 50-unit, $8.9 million development built with support from the Minnesota Equity Fund, offering rental space for low-income and formerly homeless families and individuals. UnitedHealth was the first and largest investor in the fund seeing the intrinsic relationship between stable housing and health, which speaks to the relationships that have to form for change and innovation to happen. The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund was formed in 1996 by the McKnight and Blandin foundations to address an urgent need for decent affordable housing in Minnesota. In response to the opportunity to test other health-supported housing options, like micro-units, Tim Gladhill, Director of Community Development, reflects that, “Housing policies and housing choices are definitely changing at a rapid pace [in Minnesota] and I will acknowledge whatever solution we have…our zoning laws haven’t quite caught up with that yet.”

Health-Supported Housing

Ramsey, Minnesota

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Worthington is rich with home-builders eager to construct one or two units at a time, but developers able to carry the financial burden of 10, 20, 30 or more units are scarce. To utilize the local talent, the city of Worthington and the City’s Public Utilities Commission have created a Housing Development Fund that carries the upfront development costs of land and infrastructure, allowing builders to invest in the home itself. “So what it means is our builders no longer have to carry the cost of the land or carry the cost of the infrastructure. All they have to do is pay for the sticks and bricks to put the house up and they get paid,” reflects Jason Brisson, Director of Community and Economic Development. “It’s really gonna accelerate the growth of new housing in Worthington which is one of the goals that the city is working on.”

Increasing the housing stock


Photo credit: Image courtesy of Bolton & Menk and the City of Worthington

Affordable housing is out of reach for many residents across Minnesota. “Duluth is the least-affordable housing market in the state and has been for many, many years,” reflects Joel Kilgour, an advocate for people experiencing homelessness and a member of Loaves and Fishes, an organization that provides free meals to the hungry. To respond to the lack of affordable housing, Duluth built as a prototype for homeless housing a 336-square foot single family structure co-located as an “Accessory Dwelling Unit” per building code standards. The single bedroom, full bath, apartment-size micro house is energy efficient and was completed in Fall 2015 by mostly retired volunteers, putting in practice the principle of sustainable development for all (Dale & Newman, 2009). Center City Housing Corp. is the owner of this project, the pro-bono design was done by Wagner-Zaun Architecture and equipment support was provided by Johnson-Wilson Constructors.

Micro House Prototype

Duluth, Minnesota

Photo credit: Bob King, Duluth News Tribune

One Roof Community Housing is a non-profit organization committed to building and sustaining affordable homes and creating healthy neighborhoods. Their mission and programs aim to make it as easy as possible for people in Duluth and the surrounding communities to purchase, renovate, maintain and keep a home as long as they like. Mayor Emily Larson praises One Roof, articulating, “They are national leaders in what they’re doing. They just really know what they’re doing and the thing that’s fun about Duluth…is that it’s…big enough to matter. It matters what we do here, but it’s actually small enough to get stuff done.” One Roof Community Housing offers a range of services, including affordable homeownership opportunities, homeownership counseling, home and rental rehab lending & down payment assistance, resources and support for positive tenant landlord relations, and a tool-lending library.

Pangea World Theater illuminates the human condition, celebrates cultural differences, and promotes human rights by creating and presenting international, multi-disciplinary theater. Through innovative performances, Pangea starts conversations around difficult and often challenging topics, such as race, gender, ethnicity, human rights, politics, and social justice.

Pangea World Theater

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Photo credit: No Expiration Date: Aging and Sexuality, June 2015, directed by Dipankar Mukherjee and written by Meena Natarajan. The actors are Tinne Rosenmeier, Fawn Wilderson, Beverly Cottman and Lonnie McLaughlin.

Aeon’s mission is to create and sustain quality affordable homes that strengthen lives and communities. Managing 36 properties, Aeon serves more than 4,000 individuals. In the process, innovative solutions are developed to accommodate residents’ ways of life. An example that does not impact cost is the open window between a cooking and social area. A veiled Muslim woman can hang a curtain to separate herself from male visitors so she can cook unveiled. When only family members are present, she can keep the window open for more interaction.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

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The African Development Center (ADC) of Minnesota, in the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood, offers home purchasing services to the African immigrant and refugee community. Through partnership with nonprofit community developers and local government agencies, ADC has developed workshops and educational programs for the specific cultural needs of their clientele. Its dominant location, eye-capturing exterior, and adjacency to the Afro Deli & Coffee restaurant become a face for the changing demographics of the area.

African Development Center

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Landfall, Minnesota is Washington County’s smallest city with a population of 742 people. Made up of 300 manufactured homes, Landfall is the most affordable community in the Twin Cities. The land was owned by James and Mitzi Olson who had lived in a mobile home during World War ll. Cognizant of the shortage of affordable housing in the area, they developed their site into a mobile home park, which was incorporated in 1959. “Those are mobile homes……So, if somebody brings a home into Landfall, it’s trailered in here, and then they move it onto a pad that gets setup for living,” explains Edward Shukle, City Administrator. In the 1990s, a developer wanted to acquire the land for a luxury shopping mall or housing units, but the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority came to the rescue by purchasing the land and preserving this affordable housing community.

Twin Cities Most Affordable Community

Landfall, Minnesota

Art has been noted as a vehicle for establishing and enhancing relationships among neighborhood residents who nurture their connectedness by helping, sharing, and encouraging each other while working on projects (Kay, 2000)–see examples at Project for Public Spaces. In 2013, Hennepin County Community Works collaborated with the City of Minneapolis, community artists, and community members to reimagine the future of Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis. As noted by a Hennepin County staff member who worked on the project, “We took our time in identifying various groups and talking with people, building relationships and finding out how best to engage different groups.” Using playful interactions like chalk talks, bus stop theater, and pop-up galleries the group generated ideas, which ranged from economic development to housing strategies, beautification, and livability, and helped create the small area plan for the Penn Avenue corridor.

Creative Placemaking

Hennepin County, Minnesota

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