Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 4, 2014

A Challenge To Lower the Cost of Affordable Housing

By David Reiss

Minnesota Housing, the McKnight Foundation, the Urban Land Institute of Minnesota (ULI-MN), the Regional Council of Mayors (RCM) and Enterprise Community Partners have thrown down the gauntlet with the MN Challenge to Lower the Cost of Affordable Housing. The challenge builds on recent research from Enterprise and the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing, Bending the Cost Curve: Solutions to Expand the Supply of Affordable Rentals.

The challenge is an idea competition intended to

support innovative problem solving from interdisciplinary teams of housing professionals resulting in a systematic concept that lowers the cost of developing affordable housing in Minnesota. Reducing both the hard and soft costs of rental housing will give the state and local communities additional options for providing a full range of housing choices for its low and moderate income residents.

The Challenge  will

  • Provide up to $100,000 for the development and implementation of ideas to lower the cost of affordable rental housing.
  • Cultivate and collect innovative strategies and ideas for lowering the per unit cost of financing, developing, and building affordable multi-family housing (preserved or new).

By February 28, teams will submit short concept papers outlining their cost reduction ideas. Submissions will be reviewed by a selection panel made up of members from the sponsoring organizations and an inter-disciplinary team of stakeholders involved in the delivery of affordable housing. In March, the panel will select three proposals as finalists, and these teams will each be awarded up to $10,000 to do the research and development needed to demonstrate that their idea should be implemented. The finalists will present their  work in May. In June,  when the panel will select one idea and commit up to $70,000 for the winning team to implement their idea.

While this challenge obviously has a Minnesota focus, the ideas it generates will likely have wider applicability. Given Mayor De Blasio’s focus on affordable housing, I would assume that New York’s affordable housing professionals will follow this challenge carefully. And maybe they should come up with an affordable housing challenge of their own!

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