“Stable affordable housing is critical to our state’s economic stability…it is the key component in building generational and community wealth and creating thriving communities that support strong economies.”—Emma Kasiga, MN Department of Employment & Economic Development & Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota Board Member

More than 30 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared the first Monday in October to be World Habitat Day. To celebrate, Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota hosts a panel of experts discussing different aspects of affordable homeownership each year.

This year’s World Habitat Day panel, on October 4, 2021, focused on the statewide need for affordable homeownership, with the angle of ownership as the cornerstone to economic and household stability. The panel was moderated by Emma Kasiga; panelists included Stephanie Hoff, Otter Tail Power Company; Abdirahin Hussen, African Development Center (ADC); Ali Joens, Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership; Duluth Mayor Emily Larson; and Marisa Sauceda, Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity.

Panelists shared local expertise from many different areas of the state, articulating that the work of creating more affordable ownership happens when we all center our values, build strong partnerships, and elevate affordable ownership’s great importance to our communities. Said Mayor Larson, I really believe that housing is exactly one of those foundational elements. You cannot go about the rest of your day and your life if you don’t feel that you have a safe place to go home to.” Said Marisa Sauceda, “Housing is so essential to successful households and communities the adverse effects of lack of housing is something that should be highlighted and at the forefront of policy decisions and community initiatives.”

There are many organizations working to improve ownership, like Abdirahin Hussen’s work with ADC. Said Hussen: We are here for economy empowerment and helping immigrant families with asset building.… We see every single day, clients who are discouraged… and then we provide education, train them, and show them to not give up.” In addition to organizational work, there is much that local and state governments and businesses can do to provide funding. And what about individuals? Said Sauceda, The thing that I like to say, when I’m talking to the community is make sure that you’re voting. Not only for elected officials, but you’re also voting on ballot measures. Some of those could allocate money to affordable housing initiatives. Some of them can take money away from affordable housing initiatives. So, making sure our voters pay close attention to where the funding is being allocated.”

You can watch the full panel on our YouTube channel! And there’s no need to wait until World Habitat Day next year to take action: share the panel with your network and on social media and review your ballot for the upcoming election so you can #VoteforHome. Said Sauceda, The biggest challenge is the lack of awareness in the surrounding community about the negative effects of the lack of safe, stable, and affordable housing on not only adults but especially their children.” Help continue the work of Habitat by doing your part to share the positive effects that homeownership has on children, families, and the community as a whole!