ULI Minnesota News

ULI Minnesota / Regional Council of Mayors Hold 9th Annual Housing Summit on Immigration and Housing Demand

On July 18th, ULI Minnesota / Regional Council of Mayors held the 9th Annual Housing Summit featuring a keynote address from Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing in which she discussed the Center’s recent report, Home in America: Immigrants and Housing DemandThe study draws on national data to discern the impact immigrants are having on housing demand across the country with a deep-dive on five major metropolitan areas, including the MSP region. Among the tools used was a new interactive map developed by RCLCO in conjunction with the Terwilliger Center called the “Suburb Atlas.” This tool uses a variety of data points to create a classification system for the housing markets of the top fifty metropolitan regions in the country.


housing-demand-in-the-regionDr. Sturtevant’s presentation demonstrated that the foreign-born population in MSP is comprised of people from a diverse array of countries who live in all areas of the metro, from the urban core to greenfield suburbs. All populations show a desire for homeownership, but actual ownership rates vary based on factors including income, length of time in the country, and region of origin. For all the different experiences among foreign-born groups in MSP, one thing is clear: the region’s population would be stagnant or declining but for the growth of the foreign-born population, and this growth is significantly influencing housing demand.


The keynote raised many thought-provoking questions, and one in particular got to the core of a challenge facing the MSP region and other areas around the country.

What happens if we don’t have enough housing—of the right types, in the right places, and at the right prices & rents?

This question provided an ideal segue for the panel discussion that followed the keynote. Dr. Sturtevant led a panel of regional business leaders in a dialogue about the growing challenge of attracting and retaining workers, particularly for low and medium wage jobs, due to the combined difficulty of finding affordable and reliable housing and transportation in the areas where these jobs are growing.

  • William Goins
    Chair, Minnesota Freight Advisory Committee and Worldwide Account Manager, FedEx
  • Jamie Riddle
    Senior Director, Manufacturing Operations, Shutterfly MN
  • Brad Tabke
    Grepoli & Former Mayor of Shakopee
  • Sabina Saksena
    Founder & CEO, Cytilife, Inc.

It was a focused conversation that addressed the importance of connecting housing, transportation, and workforce and sought to identify solutions and actions that both businesses and government could pursue.

  • what-happens-if-we-dont-have-enough-housingWe must expand the conversation. It is about all three pillars–housing, transportation, and workforce–combined rather than independently. Citizens need to hear this message as well. These are economic and community development imperatives, and we must see them as such.
  • MSP must focus on competing for talent as a region rather than competing internally within the region. A migration of talent from one city or county to another does not increase the overall strength of the region and can even diminish it over time.
  • The region needs a comprehensive transportation vision, solution, and plan. Shorter commutes are better for everyone, and our peer competitor regions are beating us in transit buildout, which ties back to our ability to attract and retain talent.
  • We also need a better grasp on how much housing we really need based on the jobs we are expected to generate as well as what types of housing products should address various types of demand. For example, what is the real demand for townhome ownership options? What additional types of housing products, like accessory dwelling units or micro units, could help make up the gap?
  • The private sector should be a part of the solution, and business leaders need to assert a bigger voice about these challenges and how we tackle them. Working with mayors can help provide political cover for businesses that would normally prefer to avoid politics.
  • The Regional Council of Mayors provides a platform for the public and private sector to connect and work together, and additional public/private workshops beyond those already built into ULI MN’s work would be a good step to take.
  • Communication between businesses and communities is critical. Both sides need to be clear about what they want out of working together.

Following the event, the Star Tribune published an article focused on the panel discussion at the Summit with additional context from regional businesses and real estate developers.


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