How Urban Homeworks is addressing the need for equitable homeownership options
Greetings, Urban Homeworks supporters! I am Anne Ketz, the Real Estate Development Director at Urban Homeworks. I oversee all existing and new housing developments. I joined the organization in 2017, and this May I celebrate 5 years of working with UHW!
Over the years, we have experienced many changes at Urban Homeworks, both within the organization and community. Our Real Estate Development work has changed also.
We continue to improve our designs and the energy efficiency of our homes. We continue to place dignified affordability at the top of our priorities. It has not been easy.
Market forces have made it challenging to keep up with the need for affordable homeownership options. Competing funding, investor competition, and high costs have caused us to produce fewer new homes than we were ten years ago. The production can feel painfully slow when the demand is so high. However, each new unit still helps a low-income family in our community. I remind myself daily who we are doing this work for and why it is so important.
Urban Homeworks focuses on dignified, affordable rental and homeownership opportunities in majority BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities. Our work focuses on these communities because of generations of racism. Discriminatory policies like redlining, racial covenants, and deed restrictions of the past continue to affect communities today. The impacts are seen today in lower property values, low BIPOC homeownership rates, and high concentrations of poverty.
Policy change is still needed. I just finished writing to our state lawmakers seeking more funding for homeownership development. Minnesota is among the worst in the nation for BIPOC homeownership. The Twin Cities is the worst metro region for Black homeownership. As of 2018, 70% of white families in MN are homeowners, while only 21% of Black families are. That number has decreased from 30% in 2000.
A new 2021 report published by the Urban Institute, “Who Owns the Twin Cities,” provides updated data on this issue. This article from MinnPost offers a summary.
Homeownership is one system where we can pursue racial equity, but lawmakers often overlook ownership when discussing affordable housing needs. Homeownership receives drastically less funding than rental housing. To reduce the ownership disparity rate, we must fund BIPOC homeownership.
We are working towards these equity goals, along with other non-profit partners throughout the state, by:
- Fighting for needed policy and funding changes
- Continuing to supply and improve access to dignified, affordable rental housing
- Developing a down payment assistance fund for BIPOC households
- Engaging residents in individual housing and ownership goals; and
- Continuing to develop new ownership units through new construction and rehab opportunities.
The Real Estate Development program focuses on producing new and innovative homeownership opportunities. In those efforts, we currently have 11 homes in various stages of development. Some of those projects include:
- A partnership with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) on a multi-family townhouse. This development of three 4-bedroom units will follow a cooperative ownership model.
- Two highly energy-efficient, single-family houses with funding from the City of Minneapolis to achieve passive certification. Passive houses are good for the environment and lower utility costs for future homeowners.
- A donated single-family home rehab – the first property donation we have received in years. The donor family has owned the house since the 1930s.
We have other exciting work ahead and look forward to keeping you updated as projects develop. We hope you will continue to follow along and support this critical work to address housing justice and racial inequities in our communities.
Please donate, volunteer, and call your lawmakers to fight for housing justice.
Real Estate Development Director