A first-of-its kind affordable housing complex with childcare center breaks ground

How one organization is working to build healthy communities through housing

A person stands at a mic and two people watch on
Deidre Schmidt (right), president and CEO of CommonBond Communities, celebrates the groundbreaking of Rise on 7 with staff and crew in St. Louis Park.
Courtesy of Sydney Sand with CommonBond Communities.

A new affordable 120-unit housing complex with a childcare center on the ground floor began construction this week in St. Louis Park.

The developers of the Rise on 7 project, CommonBond Communities, hope it can eventually serve 400 residents and up to 60 children in its early learning center.

Homeownership and housing development have become increasingly stymied due to rising housing prices, inflation, and supply chain shortages.

Deidre Schmidt, president and CEO of CommonBond Communities joined to discuss the groundbreaking and the increasingly dire state of housing with MPR News host Nina Moini.

Hear the full conversation by using the audio player above or reading the transcript below. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What is the vision behind this particular affordable housing project?

This project is going to represent more than just access to affordable homes but it's also going to be an opportunity for folks living in those homes and the surrounding community who have children to have access to affordable childcare.

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Can you share more about CommonBond's models specifically for developing beyond housing and integrating those other services?

We're helping achieve stability and independence for families. Some of the services that we provide are really focused on helping folks get through moments of crisis and maintain stability.

But in addition to that, we also do services that are focused on youth that are about education, confidence-building. We do career advancement work for adults and we also have a significant senior population that we serve to. There it's about maintaining independence and stability within a household.

What’s the target income range of the future residents?

The math is easy to do in the Twin Cities because our area median income, which is the index on which most of these programs that build properties like this are based, happens to be around $100,000 for a family of four. So, this property is going to target folks whose family income is between $30,000 and $60,000 a year.

How has CommonBond been able to make a project like this happen, particularly for people in that income range?

We're lucky to work in Minnesota. We work in other states, too, and Minnesota's among the leaders in providing affordable housing. We [also] had participation from every unit of government and we had participation from the private sector, from industry.

What can be done, more generally, to address the issue of housing affordability in our state?

Partly, it's just about recognizing the importance of affordable housing — not only to the people that live in it but to the health of a community, overall.

The second piece is to recognize that what we're building isn't just for one generation of people. It's really talking about successive generations of people who have built their lives and their futures.

So, we have to really understand it as being a long-term and major capital investment. We have, in my whole career, as a society undervalued and under appreciated the importance of making those types of investments.

This development accessed 16 pools of funding just for its construction. And so, one of the pieces that I think has to happen in order for us to be more effective and efficient when we're building affordable housing is to be able to work with fewer funding sources to be able to focus our attention.