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1SQ: Habitat for Humanity

The Midway has been a haven for business and industry since the late 19th century and the creation of the Minnesota Transfer Railway, built in 1883. The Railway was a conduit for freight traffic that spanned the country and a harbinger of the development that would come to the neighborhood.

Minnesota Transfer Railway Company Engine and Crew.

Today, University Avenue is the site of the recently constructed Allianz Field, a public train system that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul, and numerous urban amenities that attract visitors and residents alike.

Robyn Bipes-Timm, chief operating officer of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and president of Habitat’s mortgage company, wants to see continued development in Midway – but she also wants it to retain its affordability.

Habitat helped more than 110 families move into new homes last year and graduated 230 individuals from its homeownership readiness program. The organization provides homeownership opportunities for low-income Twin Cities families through affordable mortgage financing. Homebuyers who qualify for Habitat’s mortgage can buy a home they find with a realtor or purchase a Habitat built or rehabbed home.

Twin Cities Habitat’s goal is to help first-time homeowners establish equity and stability that has a ripple effect from one generation to the next.

The organization moved into its new location on University Avenue in 2014 with help from the NMTC program. Formerly located in Northeast Minneapolis, Bipes-Timm said Habitat was in serious need of a new building.

Construction of Habitat’s Headquarters

“We are the largest affordable homebuilder in the Twin Cities, but you’d come into our previous place and it had dripping ceilings, it was cold and it wasn’t that welcoming,” said Bipes-Timm

Habitat’s new headquarters sits at 1954 University Ave., conveniently located on the Green Line. The building’s 28,395 square feet provides open, airy rooms for client meetings and community space to host events and volunteers on top of offices for employees and an atmosphere that “feels like home,” said Bipes-Timm.

This year Twin Cities Habitat board and staff met with representatives from Denver’s Habitat for Humanity. Denver is experiencing a leap in home prices and has roughly the same population as the Twin Cities.

“(Denver’s) incomes are very similar to incomes in the Twin Cities,” said Bipes-Timm. “Our average starter home price is $225,000 or $250,000; in Denver, it’s as high as $450,000 to $500,000. So, you have the same average family income, but twice the home price.”

Habitat doesn’t want the Twin Cities to become a city that prices out low-income residents. Bipes-Timm fears Minneapolis and St. Paul could be heading in that direction, but currently, she says, the Twin Cities has opportunity to get ahead of the curve than Denver and to build affordable housing.

Habitat homeowners don’t pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing. The organization is at the forefront of creating housing affordability in the Midway neighborhood and Twin Cities.

“Our whole mission is not just to get people into the home, it’s that they’re stable in the home for 30 years”

“We know that home ownership is one of the primary equity builders in America. The reason it’s called the American Dream is that that’s how a lot of low- and moderate-income families start building equity, and building real assets. This is especially important to us for support wealth building within homebuyers of color who for generations were closed out of building the same equity and wealth,” said Bipes-Timm.

Read more about each of these organizations and their impact, by clicking the links below:

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