Month: September 2016

Past Board Members Stay Connected

George Lang
Carol and George Lang

CommonBond CEO Deidre Schmidt met with twenty-six guests for the Annual Alumni Board Gathering. Hosted by former Board members Tom Jasper and Judy Titcomb at the Minneapolis Club, the event honored George Lang for his more than 30 years of service and deep commitment to CommonBond.

The gathering also highlighted the innovative work CommonBond has launched to partner with socially-minded investors to preserve affordability in housing without new government subsidies.

Boulder Ridge: Our First Property Without Government Subsidies

Boulder Ridge Exterior
Boulder Ridge Exterior

CommonBond is now the proud owner of the Boulder Ridge complex in Apple Valley, MN. With this purchase, we preserved affordable rents for the 112 families and individuals living in this townhome and apartment community. This is also a significant acquisition for CommonBond as Boulder Ridge is the first property where we are partnering with socially-minded investors to preserve affordability in housing without new government subsidies.

This is one example of CommonBond’s drive to respond creatively to needs in our communities – this time with a focus on naturally occurring affordable housing (often referred to as NOAH).

With the help of Enterprise Community Loan Partners and The Pohlad Family Foundation, we purchased Boulder Ridge with the intent to make necessary improvements and keep rents affordable for those already living there.

A Boulder Ridge Family
A Boulder Ridge Family

These acquisitions are especially critical as investors – local and nationwide – are rapidly buying modest properties in the region, adding luxury amenities, and substantially raising rents. This kind of acquisition is an important complement to our work using government subsidy programs, which we will always pursue to the maximum extent available.

In the months ahead, we will work with mission-driven investors to replace and recycle these initial funds. Learn more about this effort HERE.

You can also join us for an event on December 11. The Minnesota Real Estate Journal is hosting a session on affordable housing, with a specific focus on NOAH, from 8 am – noon at Golden Valley Country Club. CommonBond is co-hosting this effort.

Contact us at info@commonbond.org for event details.

The Power of Connection: Creating a Home and Building Community

Fekri Ibrahim
Fekri Ibrahim

Fekri has known his wife, Sara, since they were small children. After they were married, however, Sara moved to Minnesota alone because of political unrest in Ethiopia. At the time of the move, she was seven months pregnant with their daughter Tiyyaa, now thirteen.

Fekri describes that decision in simple terms: “We felt it would be better to have at least one person live a better life.” Alone in a new country, his wife found a safe and stable home at CommonBond’s Seward Tower East in Minneapolis. They were reunited as a family more than three years later.

Upon his arrival at Seward Tower East, Fekri spent his first week working with CommonBond Advantage Services staff members to ensure he had proper refugee documentation.

Next, his CommonBond employment/financial coach connected him to maintenance training and a job which he held for five years. They also encouraged him to pursue his GED. Fekri added, “Anytime I had a question, I went downstairs to the Advantage Center.”

Upon his arrival at Seward Tower East, Fekri spent his first week working with CommonBond Advantage Services staff members to ensure he had proper refugee documentation. Next, his CommonBond employment/financial coach connected him to maintenance training and a job which he held for five years. They also encouraged him to pursue his GED. Fekri added, “Anytime I had a question, I went downstairs to the Advantage Center.”

Once he settled into his new life, he felt inspired to give back. Fekri began to volunteer in the onsite Advantage Center five or more hours a week, helping others navigate some of the same challenges he had faced. His ability to speak four languages enabled him to offer his neighbors the kind of support he received when he first arrived. Fekri and Sara’s family expanded with the addition of son Mubin, age eight, and little sister Hilya, age four. One by one, his children benefited from CommonBond’s programs, including Study Buddies and the homework center. Fekri knows firsthand that “having services onsite is very, very important.”

While taking classes at St. Paul College for an accounting degree, Fekri worked with his coach to apply for CommonBond’s compliance intern program as it offered a new career opportunity. The internship offers Certified Occupancy Specialist training and certification to prepare interns for compliance positions – roles that help CommonBond and other organizations navigate the complicated regulatory affordable housing landscape. He participated in the program while continuing to finish his degree, and recently began working at Seward Towers.

He loves living and working at Seward and says one of the most powerful aspects for him and his family is the sense of community. It’s more than just a building – it’s a true home. As Fekri noted, “Even if people are from different backgrounds, people care about one another. Neighbors look out for each other and we all help our children learn and grow.”

Support Services Staff and Residents: Working Together to Create Strong Communities

step-up-ceremony-for-resident-advantage-services
CommonBond staff member Meghann Gordon (third from left) was named one of the Supervisors of the Year for the City of Minneapolis STEP-UP program

Every year, a significant portion of the funds raised by CommonBond supports the work of our onsite Advantage Services teams. With more than 9,000 people living in CommonBond communities, the power of connection between residents and CommonBond’s Advantage Services staff is a key factor in the success of residents. Here’s a glimpse into the work CommonBond residents and our 60+ Advantage Services staff members do on a daily basis.

Staying healthy and independent: One of our senior residents – an individual who had experienced long-term homelessness – recently stopped taking his required medications because the copays had climbed to $90 for a three-month supply. This was more than he could afford.  An Advantage Services team member met with him and, together, they contacted the Senior Linkage Line for assistance on reducing his medication copays. After several phone calls and many hours of discussion, Hennepin County Medical Center filled his three month supply for $38. The resident is now back on his medications and doing better.

Building community:  Two of our Maplewood, MN sites, Trails Edge Townhomes and Century Trails, organized and held their semi-annual breakfast, which is an event targeted at engaging neighborhood partners to improve the community for all residents. In addition to sharing a meal, residents and community members created strategies to use and support each other’s programs. Along with CommonBond, St. Paul’s Monastery, the Benedictine Center, Century College, Tubman Center East, Hill Murray High School, and Maple Tree Childcare Center participated in this important community-wide gathering.

Preparing our youth for the future:  The City of Minneapolis STEP-UP program serves Minneapolis youth who face some of the greatest barriers to employment. During the summer of 2016, nearly 1,700 youth ages 14-21 worked at 230 local nonprofits, including CommonBond Communities. At the recent end-of-summer celebration and awards ceremony, Meghann Gordon, a CommonBond Youth Coordinator, received the Supervisor of the Year award for her work on behalf of supporting youth.

CommonBond residents are strong, engaged, and full of ideas on how to improve their communities. Our onsite Advantage Services staff members are there to actively support and provide tools for residents’ ongoing growth and success. This teamwork leads to a strong sense of community and connectedness across our properties.

For details about our Advantage Services, or if you would like to tour our housing communities to learn more from staff and residents, please contact Kathy Tolo at kathy.tolo@commonbond.org or 651-265-4748.

Save the Date: Sunwood Village Grand Opening October 12th

Sunwood Village
Sunwood Village in Ramsey, MN

On Wednesday, October 12, please join us for the grand opening of Sunwood Village in Ramsey, MN. The event starts at 4:30 pm and will include remarks by Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal and CommonBond CEO Deidre Schmidt.

Sunwood Village is one of the first affordable housing communities in Ramsey and consists of 47 units, a children’s play area, a community room and convenient access to local shops, transit, parks, and bike paths.

Sunwood Village is part of a major community development effort in Ramsey to bring jobs, expand the regional economy, and provide easy access to parks, trails, shopping, and the Northstar Commuter Rail. Our partners include the City of Ramsey, Anoka County, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, and the Metropolitan Council.

Hope you can join us in celebration of these new affordable apartment homes!

Sunwood Village
7750 Sunwood Drive NW
Ramsey, MN 55303

Deidre Schmidt: A Message from the President

deidre-schmidt
Deidre Schmidt

Every year, National Night Out events take place in communities across our state, and many of you likely attended one in your neighborhood. I always enjoy these gatherings – they’re great opportunities for community building and conversation with my neighbors. Similarly, every July and August, CommonBond helps stage National Night Out events at properties across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Of the 21 CommonBond gatherings this year, some were small, intimate events, while others were large productions with hundreds of people in attendance.

I had fun volunteering at the Seward Tower East event in Minneapolis, which featured food, two bounce houses, face painting and henna designs, and community information booths. The highlight for me was seeing Minneapolis police officers dancing with residents, neighbors, and traditional dancers affiliated with the Somali Museum. I found this to be particularly joyous and healing, in light of recent events in our nation which have highlighted the tensions between law enforcement and low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Over the course of the year, these types of CommonBond events rely on hundreds of hours of volunteer efforts. It always inspires me to see the number of community members and CommonBond staff who volunteer for these gatherings. You can get involved in these fun events by contacting volunteer@commonbond.org.

Seward Tower East
Residents, police officers, and community members enjoying National Night Out at Seward Tower East

Resident gatherings are only a small part of the work we do to create connections – both within our properties and with the larger surrounding communities. National Night Out events and other efforts are part of the power of home. In this issue, you’ll see how the power of home brings together funding partners, mission-driven investors, residents, and staff members. Thank you for your ongoing support of CommonBond and the thousands of people who live in CommonBond communities.