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Urban Land Institute MN Regional Council of Mayors

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Home >Case Studies >Urban Land Institute MN Regional Council of Mayors


Urban Land Institute MN Regional Council of Mayors


Regional Council of Mayors Background

In 2004, Urban Land Institute Minnesota (ULI MN) founded the Regional Council of Mayors (RCM), a nonpartisan, collaborative platform where mayors meet monthly to learn from experts and each other working across boundaries to strengthen the region’s competitiveness and quality of life. The council, now with 54 mayors, is an influential voice for the region. Forming initiative advisory committees (i.e., Expanding Housing Choice and Healthy & Resilient Communities) members of the RCM develop action strategies and focus on issues of regional significance.

I am a better leader today because of the wisdom of the RCM group. Mayors are learning and working together to find good, progressive solutions to real-world problems we are facing at the city level… The conversations are highly focused, and I can guarantee that I take away learning from every meeting.

- Brad Tabke, Mayor of Shakopee Minnesota


The RCM is led by two co-chair mayors who serve staggered two-year terms. The Executive Committee, which is comprised of current and former chairs and the ULI MN Executive Director, are responsible for setting the agenda and recommending leadership positions. The two initiative advisory committees – Housing and Healthy & Resilient Communities – are chaired by a mayor and ULI MN private sector member. This partnership encourages collaborative, innovative solutions that strengthen the overall quality of life for Minnesota residents.

Financial Support

The RCM is financially supported from its private and non-profit partners, including Target, BlueCross and BlueShieldMN, and the Family Housing Fund. While mayors are not required to pay dues, they are strongly encouraged to join ULI as members to have access to the full benefits of the network and educational information.

Housing Initiative Background

In 2008, the RCM began a partnership with their primary funder, the Family Housing Fund, to expand the Fund’s regional capacity and to implement tools and strategies that support a full range of housing choices in connected, livable communities. The partnership provides a forum for public officials to connect with private sector professionals who contribute their time and talent to develop housing strategies that support economic stability and regional prosperity.

The Housing Initiative was established at a time when development and economic growth was paralyzed by the Great Recession. It was an opportunity to address the impact of changing demographics and respond to market shifts. Since its inception, the ULI MN/RCM Housing Initiative has helped local governments shape a competitive future.

Housing Initiative Programs and Support Services

The Housing Initiative has been a catalyst for a cultural shift in support of a full range of housing choices. The ULI MN and the Regional Council of Mayors supports the mission of the Housing Initiative in the following ways:

Advisory Services

The ULI MN/Regional Council of Mayors is responsible for providing unbiased, market-based solutions and best practice advice on land use and building resilient and competitive communities. The ULI MN / RCM offers two advisory service options to policy leaders:

  • Navigating Your Competitive Future: ULI MN / RCM coordinates and facilitates workshops with policy leaders and volunteer real estate professionals on the impact of changing demographics, market preference, and the competitive advantage of a full range of housing choices in connected livable communities. Policy leaders contribute to a facilitated conversation and share information and data on how to be better prepared for development and changing communities. To date, over 50 Navigating Your Competitive Future sessions have been held throughout the entire state of Minnesota.

Navigating Your Competitive Future Impact

“ULI MN / RCM’s advisory services program has provided invaluable benefit to the City of Edina, resulting in a deeper understanding of the importance of providing a full range of housing in our community. The expert content, data driven presentations and connections to the private sector market information all contributed to the City’s unanimous decision to support the Beacon Homeless Youth Project held Navigating Your Competitive Future workshops with policy leaders about the development of and adopt a new housing policy.” Mayor Jim Hovland, City of Edina. Edina is a first ring suburb of Minneapolis. The housing project recently approved by the City is called 66 West Apartments which includes 39 apartments of supportive housing for southwest suburban youth and young adults who have experienced homelessness. These workshops provided unbiased information about the full range of housing choices and support private and public sector decision makers to be more informed about affordable housing and make better decision for their communities. In addition to land use approval for the housing project the City also contributed financial support.

  • Technical Assistance Panels: ULI MN organizes and facilitates technical assistance panels that provide an unbiased, interdisciplinary panel of volunteer real estate professionals who address as specific project, development or policy issue for cities, counties, or regional entities. The panels range from one half to two days and the workshop if preceded by analysis of background information provided by the sponsor, planning sessions, community interviews and site tours. The panel’s findings and recommendations are documented in a written report and presentation.

Technical Assistance Impact

ULI MN / RCM provides ongoing technical assistance guidance and advice to committees supporting the development of the Southwest LRT Corridor, the METRO Green Line Extension station areas. Participation in this technical assistance activity has contributed to acceptance of the corridor wide housing strategy and facilitation of corridor-wide financing tools and strategies for LRT construction

Influencing Regional Policy

The Housing Initiative mission is to develop policies and strategies for a more equitable and competitive region in support of a full range of housing choices. The initiative supports specific multi-jurisdiction policy issue areas, including:

  • Common Interest Property Liability Reform – ULI MN / RCM engaged in a regional effort to reform common interest property liability laws to encourage private sector investment of new common interest developments, townhomes, and condominiums.

  • Mixed Income Housing Finance and Policies – ULI MN / RCM is working with partners to identify and apply best practices for innovated financing strategies for the mixed-income developments. As a result of efforts, ULI MN / RCM in partnership with the Family Housing Fund hired Grounded Solutions Network to develop a mixed-income housing feasibility calculator for the MSP Region. The work received funding support by The McKnight Foundation and the Metropolitan Council; MSP region’s local MPO.

  • Metropolitan Council 2040 Housing Policy Plan – Three RCM representatives participated on the advisory committee; a year-long effort to develop the regions 2040 Housing Policy Plan which outlines multiple strategies to advance the Metropolitan Council’s overall housing policy priority to create housing options that give people of all stages of life and of all economic means viable choices for safe, stable and affordable homes.

Sharing and Applying Knowledge

Providing opportunities to exchange best practices and lessons learned is one of the most effective avenues for creating thriving, livable, connected communities. Communication tools include:

  • ULI MN Councils

    • Community Development Council - a forum for community development professionals and ULI MN members and provides an opportunity for members to share and engage in candid conversations about real estate projects and practices. This invitation-only forum creates an environment for participation, learning, and collaboration between the private and public sector.

    • Housing Council - a forum for private and non-profit housing development, design, and finance industry leaders and service providers to examine best practices that support a full range of housing choices in connected livable places: challenges, opportunities, solutions that are responsive to shifting demographics, market preferences and industry changes.

  • Online ToolsThe Policy Toolbox is an online best practices resource for community development stakeholders across the region. The (Re)Development Ready Guide is an informational tool that encourages local communities to embed practices and policies as a guide for actions and funding allocations. The Mixed Income Housing Feasibility Calculator is a tool designed to allow cities to explore the relationship between various local incentives and the development of mixed income housing. The online tools were developed in an effort to share local best practices and contribute to greater impact across the region.

  • Communication – The Committee also communicates by engaging local and nation thought leaders through events and workshops, including an Annual Housing Summit to celebrate housing work plan accomplishments, local impact and housing successes.

Housing Initiative Impact

One of the greatest impacts of the Housing Initiative is the facilitated opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned across multi-jurisdictions and between the private and public sector. Local governments are demonstrating broader acceptance and intentional actions that support affordable housing for existing residents and future generations. Cities recognize the economic imperative of a full range of housing choices to ensure their competitive ability to accommodate income diversity in their communities.

The impacts of the ULI MN/RCM Housing Initiative and advisory services in terms of units built and preserved are unprecedented. Fifty-one percent of the total affordable housing units in suburban areas were built or preserved in RCM cities that participated in ULI MN advisory services programs from 2008 to 2014. This includes 2,919 total units of affordable housing (i.e., 130 new ownerships, 828 new rentals, 1,961 preserved rental).

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson learned through the collaboration of the ULI MN and the RCM and its Housing Initiative is the value of building trusted relationships, across multiple sectors where barriers can be broken and progress on multiple levels in support of equity and housing choice can be achieved.

In addition, a strong leadership committee is a key contributor to success. The ULI MN / RCM’s co-chairs have been instrumental in leading the council, setting a policy agenda, and discussing solutions to some of our time’s most pressing challenges.

As a result of increased membership and collaboration, the RCM’s greatest challenge is accommodating different communities, markets, and land use. It can be challenging to address specific local legislation, policies and programs, but the RCM provides an un-biased, collaborative forum for mayors to share best practices and identify innovative solutions together.

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The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.