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Counties and Affordable Housing 101

Emily Kirkevold
Posted by Emily Kirkevold on 8:45 AM on July 8, 2022

The efforts to invest in affordable housing are supported throughout many of our government institutions, and our county governments are no different. Originally, counties were created to be an administrative arm of the state to support its necessary activities like collecting property taxes and administering elections. Counties have since taken up a more functional role in providing services to their residents, creating the systems we see today in our local government. Throughout Minnesota, counties have grown to include services such as public safety, public health, transportation, and, of course, affordable housing!

Minnesota has a total of 87 counties, seven of which cover the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity service area. This includes Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Anoka, Washington, Carver, and Scott counties.

Map showing Habitat home locations in the seven-county metro

There are no two counties exactly alike, and the same goes for those representing the Twin Cities metro. Every county struggles with different barriers to providing affordable housing within its community – whether it's rising land costs, restrictive zoning, or potential community opposition. Our local governments have no one-size-fits-all solution to the affordable housing crisis mounting across the state. With differing capacities and unique partnerships with nonprofits, counties have worked to provide additional and more flexible support to their residents. Through creative solutions, counties have supported the development and preservation of affordable housing and have been able to play a unique role in answering the affordable housing needs of their community.

Like our local cities and the state government, counties have set high targets to meet their communities’ affordable housing needs. By setting long- and short-term goals, counties have started creating roadmaps to answer the affordable housing needs of their communities. For example, within the Twin Cities, the rising cost of housing and lack of affordable options has made it near impossible for low to moderate-income families to afford a home. This has led to programs that will build up the available housing stock and preserve currently affordable units. Through county programs, developers are able to fund important affordable housing projects that cover the whole affordable housing continuum from homelessness to homeownership.

Exterior shot of Habitat-built home
Many of Twin Cities Habitat's homes receive crucial funding through Counties.

Twin Cities Habitat's two largest sources of federal funding comes to us through counties. These are the HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) and Community Block Grant Development (CBGD). Within highly populated counties and county consortiums, our local governments have been able to gain access to this vital funding to produce new housing and preserve our current affordable housing stock.

You can learn more about how Twin Cities Habitat has advocated to increase these essential federal funding sources here.

These vital resources counties depend on from their state and federal partners have not been able to keep up with population growth and the impacts of inflation on home prices. This has led to counties searching for additional revenue sources to fund important programs we depend on for affordable housing investments. This includes the creation of new property tax levies, affordable housing trust funds, tax increment financing, and more, which has allowed counties to continue providing support to community members and developers. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is grateful for its county partners who support our work in developing new affordable homeownership opportunities and will continue to work together to do more throughout the Twin Cities.

*Resource: Building Homes: County Funding for Affordable Housing (naco.org)

*County Affordable Housing Interactive Map: NACo County Explorer

Tags: Advocacy, 2022

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